Joshi Spotlight: AJW Budokan Retsuden MAX

* And now we hit one of the biggest Joshi cards of the year, in one of the most legendary arenas in Japan, with the now-rare Interpromotional Matches taking up the entire card! They’ve really edged off on those in 1994 (they’re probably difficult to book, and I’d imagine most don’t want their top stars to lose to others), but we add one more Dream Match to Akira Hokuto’s generous supply, putting her up against Dynamite Kansai in an elimination tag match! We’ve also got FMW’s top women’s star, LCO vs. an LLPW team, Takako & Cutie forming an Interpromotional Idol Team against two other JWP wrestlers, an ultra-rare Chigusa Nagayo match against AJW wrestlers, and a Kyoko Inoue/Manami Toyota singles match! aka the pairing that first broke Dave Meltzer’s ***** scale! This is a MONSTER show, and a long review- let’s get to it!

We start with a full half-hour of “arriving at the arena and doing photo-shoots” stuff, really padding out a 5-hour (!!) tape. Everyone shows up, people shoot the shit, and at one point Manami & Takako switch outfits. Oddly both seem to fit, despite their different body types. Takako seems to be mimicking Minami by doing endless hair-flips and glamor-girl poses, which is pretty hilarious. Everyone does test-bumps and rope-jumps in the ring, too. Our Main Eventers are all pretty jovial, Hokuto cracking everyone up instead of setting off real-looking fights like usual. Oh man, the show’s announcer is wearing a LIME GREEN suit- that’s top-notch.

I should emphasize right away that this crowd is TOUGH to win over- they pop for comedy and real effort, but they will sit the fuck on their hands if you try stretching or other “match-filler”.

* This match is effectively AJW & JWP throwing out a midcard star and three rookies on each squad, with Minami as a veteran, Tomoko a rising undercarder, and two tiny rookies up against rising star Hikari and three tiny wrestlers. AJW’s team just barely edges out their JWP equivalent. Minami’s in gold & green (that’s… not a good combo), Tomoko’s in black & silver, ASARI’s a silver & red superhero, and Rie’s in white & blue. Hikari’s in her Tarzan gear, Bolshoi’s in that rad green & blue clown outfit, Nouchi’s in blue & yellow and Yagi’s in a white Jobber Swimsuit.

Team AJW attacks immediately, piling up JWP in the corner and everyone hits avalanches on them until Minami misses hers- the rookies go. Bolshoi hits a rope-walk armdrag on ASARI, but Tomoko pounds on the rookies & Minami tortures Nouchi, who then gets the “Birthday Bumps” on her FACE. Everyone gets a turn, the vet Minami being in the ring the most. Tomoko gets stiff as fuck with Nouchi, at one point chopping her DIRECTLY on the throat, which had to turn like hell. Borderline “taking liberties” but that’s always how she wrestles now. ASARI goes nuts on Hikari in a fun bit, then Minami scores two-counts with her backbreakers. Hikari powerslams Tomoko & escapes, then Bolshoi hits her Rock Bottoms, which is a funny visual given the size difference. Tomoko facecrushers Hikari, but Minami tries a powerbomb and earns a rana for a close two. Tomoko flies off onto Yagi’s knees, then manages to slingshot off on her.

Bolshoi cross-bodies Tomoko & Rie, but a double-teams turns into Tomoko lariating Yagi for two. Yagi escapes and we finally get Bolshoi/ASARI! Bolshoi hits a spinning cross-body, but takes the Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kicks! Standing Moonsault gets two, but then Team JWP charges and puts Team AJW on the floor- Quebrada from Bolshoi! Moonsault on ASARI gets two- Minami dives in to save. Hikari goes for hers… but hits feet! Minami pounces, but takes the Rolling Cradle for two. She dodges a quadruple-dropkick, but misses her Flying Senton and nearly gets pinned by Yagi. But then AJW pounces- JWP is dumped to the floor, and in a great bit of revenge- SKY TWISTER PRESS to the outside! Okay she only got two of them (she tiny) but what the hell. Doomsday Device Dropkick from Minami/Rie gets two when JWP dives in. Minami goes for the Powerbomb, but gets tripped up by JWP, so her teammates run interference and she gets a HUGE Ligerbomb for the pin (15:04).

One of those “everyone tries stuff, pairing off” matches, so it was a constantly-moving 15 minutes and ended up in a great final portion of moves. Half the girls didn’t even hit a finisher, but there was smart psychology, revenge spots (and you’re not gonna find a cooler move than a Sky Twister Press to the outside), and finally teamwork being necessary to give AJW the first win tonight.

Rating: ***1/2 (very, VERY good considering half the people were super-green)

* Yes, I finally have to review another Midget Match- most of the other uploaders leave these off. Now Little Frankie, AJW’s top Midget star, is decked out as a Mini-Hokuto. I love how it’s “MIN” instead of “MAX” now. Best part- the “Jimmy Hart Version” of Hokuto’s actual theme. The lil’ Noh uniform and short-sword is EPIC and I’m with the crowd- this rules. OH MY GOD HE’S GOT A FUCKING PINK HOKUTO TWO-PIECE ON! If he does Hokuto moves I’m gonna lose it.

Standard comedy match, with Tomezo hitting power stuff and a Vader Bomb for two. Akiracito does some technical stuff- Tomezo tosses him and tries a slide-kick but falls short (hee hee). Akiracito hits a mule kick but collapses from a fireman’s carry, taking a giant swing for a solid minute… but Tomezo collapses as well. Akiracito’s up first, uses telekinesis to flip Tomezo, then climbs… SHIT YES- HOKUTO-STYLE CLAPS!!! Flying Stomp and he does the NORTHERN LIGHTS BOMB to win (5:42). Okay that’s the worst version ever, but that’s awesome.

Rating: 1/2* (complete drek, but you just have to give a dwarf in drag half a star for using a Northern Lights Bomb- I believe it’s in the reviewer’s handbook)

ZENJO FIGHTING GLOVE (Kickboxing Match):
* Ohhhhhh GODDDDDDD… real martial arts on an AJW card. I haven’t missed these. Kumiko’s a rookie but can fight for real.

A bunch of rounds of ineffectual punches and kicks, but Kumiko gets a flurry in the fourth that impresses. Both are eventually too bagged to hit anything of value. Like, hits will land flush but neither will move. It goes a full five rounds, and Kyoko is declared the winner.

Rating: N/A

* Battle of the BBWs- It’s AJW vs. LLPW! Reggie’s now in a bright pink shirt with her construction worker gear, and Ito’s finally… FINALLY… dropped her “Peter Pan” look, now in a green & yellow leotard with leaf-things on one side. Okay, it’s still ugly, but we’re not dealing with GENERATIONAL levels of ugly here. Eagle’s in some Egyptian Queen get-up and floral-print leotard & Carol’s got a red leather “tough girl” look (with an orange/black sports bra/shorts combo). Eagle is generally always protected in these, and Reggie’s been used to put other big girls over, so I strongly suspect LLPW will win their only match tonight, even though Midori’s usually a Jobber in these.

Midori bails immediately and it’s my favorite spot ever- HUGE PEOPLE SLAMMING INTO EACH OTHER! Reggie tries belly-bounces in a test of strength, but gets her arm worked, then Ito kicks Carol’s ass for a while, and jumps off the apron onto her back! Reggie is dropped with a Thesz Press, but resists Eagle’s lariats and it’s a DOUBLE lariat, with both being all huge and defiant. Eagle goes to the eyes and uses the hair, so Reggie gives her the same and gets a reaction with a big splash. Ito takes Vader Attacks, though- Midori does some of her basic stuff, but takes an Ass Attack and Stomp Spam. Ito cannonballs her, but Reggie climbs and takes a SUPER FRANKENSTEINER! Okay they clearly tried their asses off there and the crowd loved it after dead silence most of the match.

Reggie takes a headscissors, but no-sells dropkicks- Eagle hammers her so Midori can hit a German! The BBWs lariat each other down, but Eagle’s up first with another- a third try gets her German’d! Ito misses her Flying Stomp but gets a nearfall reversing a Powerbomb- German & Flying Stomp get two-counts. Reggie hits avalanches on Carol, but Eagle stops the Reggie Rack. Flipping slam gets two. Second-rope splash- Eagle saves. Ito misses another Stomp and Eagle lariats her for two. Ito gets a reaction by fighting back hard enough to drop her, but Carol stops a double-team and flies out onto Reggie, letting Eagle mop up with a Powerbomb (13:04). And there you go- LLPW wins a… giant Totoro plush. As is tradition.

Okay, this was a SUPER-slack, no-effort match until Reggie of all people decides it’s time to generously sell, as she goes flying all over for tiny Midori. It looked super-choreographed and hard to believe, but hey- the crowd dug it and effort is effort, ya know? The fans were into it after that point, Reggie bumping around and Ito adding some flying stuff, but the finish was your typical “Eagle gets a 2-move comeback” stuff I’ve seen a lot from her.

Rating: *** (looking like ** and nothing until REGGIE BENNETT of all people carries the match to “quite good” territory)

Megumi Kudo

Megumi Kudo, the Deathmatch Queen! Who is… never in a Deathmatch in these.

* … yeah, so the sole FMW representative is their top female star, and she’s up against someone who’s always just “filler” on every AJW card I’ve seen. WONDER WHO’S GONNA WIN? Though at least there’s some neat stuff in that they were trained in the same AJW class (1986). KAORU’s wearing a black bodysuit and has a silver mask, while Kudo’s actually dropped the white & pink for a black look! Though her boots and some extra bits are pink. KAORU’s effort levels can vary greatly in everything I’ve seen, so hopefully she’s got her working boots on tonight.

KAORU does her low-tempo lucha to start, but thankfully Kudo is game and can motor along. They do a lot of basics to utter silence for several minutes. KAORU’s high Thesz Presses get some attention when she hollers out- guess they were wanting some fire. A cool tilt-a-whirl Torture Rack (so… the Reggie Rack) leads to an inverted Samoan Drop & inverted “Rock The Cradle”. Rana gets two- KAORU whips Kudo twice, but gets a charging ass to the face both times- that’ll learn ya. Flying elbow smash gets two for Kudo. KAORU does a nifty Moonsault dodge and gingerly moves into position for a big Quebrada to a pop. Leg-trap back suplex hold gets two- she misses a Moonsault but gets La Majistral for two. Kudo keeps ducking lariats, hitting a German then a Kudo Driver (Tiger Driver ’91) for two-counts! Another gets two- she’s knocked off the top, but KAORU re-sets her and then goes for a Moonsault again… this time hitting knees. They fuck up whatever they were gonna do in the corner, so Kudo uses the ass, a German & an inside cradle all for two counts. KAORU tries a flying cross-body, but Kudo rolls through for two, then hits a Tiger Suplex for the anticlimactic three count (13:43). Kudo talks shit after the match and KAORU unmasks.

Man, this was like the most antiseptic match I’ve ever seen. Just… BLAND almost the whole way through until they decided to have their “planned spots” with four minutes to go. It came off more like an exhibition of what a wrestling match might look like than anything with an actual story- very little fire or intent behind anything. Kudo would occasionally yell and get a reaction, but there was nothing to see until the last couple minutes, and even then KAORU was kind of slowly moving into stuff like she was afraid to screw it up. The last bit was pretty good until whatever they were planning was screwed up, and then it seemed like they were just improvising.

Rating: ** (borderline lazy exhibition at first, then revved up… then they botched something and just did “whatever”. Guys I swear KAORU is in good matches EVENTUALLY)

* LCO’s now in a match against an LLPW squad, putting one of their sets of tag titles on the line. Yukari is an extremely minor star so I don’t think this one was a big question either, but Harley’s a bigger star than either LCO member at this point. Their ring gear is AMAZING, particularly Yukari’s peacock-feathered train. Their wrestling attire is even more garish, Harley in white with a big green chestplate covered in 1970s designs, while Yukari has the ’70s wallpaper designs over a full-body leotard.

Shimoda gets the worst of exchanges with Team LLPW, but draws the biggest pop for swatting Yukari’s foot away- LCO is the best. Harley kicks her, but she clotheslines out and Mita pulls hair and uses Blazing Chops. Harley counters the pin with MMA, throwing on a keylock of all things, but Mita gobbles up Yukari and they hit the Bitch Pose as the crowd goes wild for them! They slowly work Yukari over with basic stuff for a few minutes, but she tags out and Harley hits two backdrops and a tombstone on Shimoda for two. Spinning heel kick gets the same, but Yukari hits Harley and LCO pounce on them for a beat-down outside the ring, but Team LLPW comes back with stereo planchas to the outside- Yukari hits a Perfect Plex (with the leg hooked from the other side) for two.

Harley kicks Yukari by mistake, and she eats the Electric Chair/Splash combo for two. Mita can’t hit the DVD, but a Northern Lights Suplex gets two. Shimoda’s splash hits feet and Harley misses a heel kick by a MILE, but Shimoda sells it anyway, before reversing a whip to a Tiger Suplex for two. Mita tries a backdrop, but Harley barely lands on her feet (that could have gone VERY badly) and does a German for two. Mita catches her with a Superduperplex for two, but Harley reverses Shimoda’s falling clothesline- she lands BADLY on a splash attempt, though, but manages to copy Shimoda’s Tiger Suplex reversal for a close two. I think Yukari botches a rack-style move, but Shimoda hits her clothesline to bring both women down to a pop. Yukari manages a German with the best “on the toes” technique I’ve ever seen for two, but LCO just jump them and Mita hits the Death Valley Driver! Then they do the Assisted Plancha/Dive combo to Saito (Shimoda almost landing on her head as a result)! This leaves Yukari vulnerable- the Death Lake Driver (tiger superplex) finishes at (12:49).

Very slow-paced “meh, let’s have a Just Good Enough match” kind of a deal here, with the crowd not buying LLPW’s stuff AT ALL, but they again started a quicker pace eventually. These shorter match times are really causing some odd match-construction that way. Harley is usually the best worker of the four, but today was very sloppy and not hitting stuff right… not that the others were much better- Yukari hit SOME good stuff, but the crowd straight-up laughed at whatever that rack was going to be (Shimoda had to jump off to “save” the move and Harley ran in as well). All in all, she looked out of her depth. This kind of “uh, I dunno what’s next” sloppiness brought the match down a ways, preventing a proper “LCO Template” bout, which usually guaranteed *** matches.

Rating: **1/2 (some good stuff, but a slow start and sloppy finish hurt it)


* And now the two once-hateful feuding Idols, Takako & Cutie, respect each other and team up against JWP’s dominant Veteran Monster, and their best rookie in Candy Okutsu! Given how excellent Devil is, and how good the other three are, this should be excellent if they put in the effort. Takako’s in that neon yellow & blue thing (gotta be her most garish gear ever), Cutie’s in white, Devil’s in all black, and Candy’s in black & neon blue.

The beginning is amazing immediately, as Takako DEMANDS Devil and divebombs her with shots, but Devil headbutts her brains out until Cutie runs in with a German. They try a terrible double-team but Devil kills them both and overthrow powerbombs Cutie onto Takako. Candy accidentally missile kicks Devil, but she recovers by lariating Takako… who immediately recovers and the idols hit a Doomsday Device on Candy out of nowhere. Candy buggers a reversal so they just kick her ass for a bit, doing the LCO pose while they’re at it. Devil appears to want to save things, so she ANNIHILATES Cutie with a Powerbomb. Takako gets right the fuck in her face and the crowd loves it (curious how they’re the same height, yet Devil comes off as so much mightier- aura is a hell of a thing). Cutie pulls hair, but DEVIL still yanks her around by it in a funny bit. She does a snapmare WITH HER OWN HAIR, which I’ve literally never seen before. Candy hits a crab and Devil comes in and STANDS on Cutie, smiling at an enraged Takako- this is getting awesome. Cutie finally reverses stuff, but now Takako takes a beating- Team JWP hits the pose on HER in revenge, but she bites Candy’s arm and machine-guns her with fists to the head to break a sleeper. Yeah, that’ll do it. Takako with the “Knees to the face” Tombstone, and now CUTIE does one!

They get wise to Devil’s constant interference so Takako “blocks” for Cutie… forgetting that Devil can just beat the shit out of her, which she does. Slam on a table! Ringbell to the chest! Hammer to the face! Cutie’s press-slammed onto a table and they milk the moment- but of course back in the ring Cutie hits a Dragon Suplex for two. They double-team Devil, but she axe-kicks Takako (Crowd: “WOAHHHHH!”) and a Powerbomb gets two. Candy tries Rolling Germans, but Takako keeps elbowing out, so Devil cracks her one and Powerbombs her, throwing her right back into the Germans- hahahahah that’s good. Candy tries a run-up move but slips and settles for a 2nd-rope splash, hitting feet. Takako climbs, but Devil stalls her so Cutie & Candy German each other and Candy hits a run-up Northern Lights Superplex. German, but Cutie saves… so Devil FLIES off with a Guillotine Legdrop onto her while she’s over top of Takako! Holy shit that was cool! Devil kicks Takako’s ass, but forgets about Cutie, who hits a missile kick to her spine, and when she’s up, TAKAKO hits her with the Flying Knee Smash! Candy rolls out of the Aurora Special, but eats a Flying Stomp from Cutie for two. Two Backdrop Holds get two for Takako. Aurora Special- Devil saves. Cutie tries a plancha to deal with her, but misses, so Devil & Candy hit a Double Super Chokeslam on Takako! Cutie saves that one. They’re getting desperate now, but Devil misses a Guillotine Legdrop on Takako, and Cutie dives in with a Straightjacket & Dragon Suplex on Candy, then finally hits that plancha off the same corner as Takako using her Flying Knee- that drills Candy for the win (17:15). Devil salutes Budokan on the way out to big applause.

This really sloppy to start, then turned into a “series of awesome events”, like they had all this cool stuff planned but needed to get into their groove. The idols kept poking the bear, and hoo boy did she make ’em pay for it. Then Candy starts getting her big run, but she’s been uncharacteristically botchy all match, slipping every time she jumps onto the ropes. The psychology at the end was solid, with the idols hammering Candy with all their best stuff- she had the “go” to fight out of 2-3 finisher-tier moves, but Devil had to start saving her. And THAT get a few wrinkles tossed in, as it looked like they were about to hit a come-from-behind victory, but then the idols FINALLY deal with her for the win.

Rating: ***3/4 (sloppy in parts, but the great character stuff puts it over to me)

Cuty Suzuki & Chigusa Nagayo vs Devil Masami & Plum Mariko (Clipped) - YouTube

Chigusa Nagayo, biggest star in Joshi history, makes a rare return to an AJW card!

* Okay, so this one’s a lot to digest- MARIKO YOSHIDA is back, after a neck injury that put her out in late 1992! And here she’s teaming up with her ’92-rival Sakie against Yamada… and Chigusa Nagayo! This is her first appearance on an AJW card since Dream Slam in early 1993, as she’s been in JWP since then. Yamada/Chigusa is interesting, since the AJW commentator told Debbie Malenko (in English) that Yamada looked, wrestled, and even TALKED like Chigusa, so the fans always saw that- Chigusa was also her inspiration. Yoshida’s in a hilariously-dated bright-yellow shoulderpadded atrocity with her initials on it, Sakie’s in a neon orange singlet now, Chigusa’s in red & black (with Mabel’s pants), and Yamada’s in pink & silver.

Oh shit, the kids jump them before the bell with planchas, then SUPLEX them- Team Chigusa sells this huge, cradling their necks for minutes afterwards. Yamada whups Yoshida’s ass and tests out that neck injury, then Chigusa bullies her around, but ends up in some holds- the crowd actually applauds Yoshida’s reversals. They double-team her a bit, and Sakie debuts the “spit on her hands” preamble to the Rolling Butterfly Suplexes, but Chigusa brilliantly hooks her leg, preventing the roll! And Sakie actually powers her back from it with great timing, then reverses a reversal to an armbar. Yoshida cartwheel dodges on Yamada but she kicks Sakie’s ass. Sakie gets her trademark “fired up defiant comeback” but Chigusa just lariats her down and slaps the kids around for being defiant. Yamada boots Yoshida for two, but she reverses stuff and uses speed to take over, using her Run-Up Cross-Body for two. Yamada hits an enzuigiri to come back and Chigusa hits two wheel kicks- Sakie runs in and Uranages her on her friggin’ head, though!

Chigusa wisely bails after that, and is too wily to get caught in a plancha… but Yoshida runs up the ropes on the other corner and dives out onto her! Hah- caught her on the backswing! Yamada sweep-kicks Sakie to save Chigusa from the Savate Kick, but Sakie escapes the sleeper and reverses on Yamada- Sakie’s own sleeper is escaped and Yamada spin-kicks her. Both try top-rope stuff but Yamada gets a hell of a Belly-To-Belly Superplex for two- Yoshida saves. Flying Enzuigiri misses and she ends up in the sleeper! Sakie YANKS her back from the ropes in a greatly-timed bit, but she finally escapes. She kicks out of a sunset flip, but Yoshida tries the Rings of Saturn and Chigusa boots her to huge heat. Yoshida takes a backdrop driver, but Sakie avoids one, Savate Kicks Yamada, then comes off the ropes for one on Chigusa- Yamada saves! Sakie argues the call and gets distracted by Yamada & Yoshida’s fight, which gets her caught in CHIGUSA’s Sleeperhold, and she struggles before it’s lights out in seconds. She oddly collapses and Chigusa releases before the ref calls for the bell (16:08). Everyone congratulates each other after the match (the vets making “1” signs for some reason), and Yoshida basks in the fans’ appreciation for her return.

This was an interesting sort of “old-school” kind of match, fought more in Chigusa’s “fight for your holds” style, where they’d reverse into things rather than grabbing submissions out of nowhere. There were a lot of smart reversals and strategy, too, like Chigusa bailing from stuff, people DIVING into the ropes to avoid sleepers, etc. Chigusa knew how to play dominant (often just holding someone down to slap them), while the youngsters were believably fighty. There was great chemistry and timing in most of the stuff in the second half, with Sakie doing her “Desperation Sleeper Against Veterans” bit, but Chigusa snagged her in one of her own (an ’80s finisher of hers, so it’s not a nothing move, either). Still, the finish seemed quite sudden.

Rating: ***1/2 (unlike the previous match, this was steadily at this level the whole way through- not outstanding and lacked a huge Finishing Surge, but still very good)

* And now we get a huge, huge match, as Kyoko, All-Pacific Champion, fights her greatest rival, the IWA Women’s Champion, Manami! These two had the famous *****++++ WON match in early 1992 to cap off their epic feud, leading Toyota to a huge run that year, while Kyoko kind of sat just behind her. Mike Lorefice of Quebrada calls this a botchy spotfest, while Meltzer gave it ****1/2, so we’ll see- Kyoko is one of the few who can entirely match the “Toyota Pace”. Kyoko’s in pink & yellow, Toyota’s in black.

Manami blows her Running No-Hands spot immediately, settling for just punches- Kyoko fires off a slingshot dropkick in return. Manami slips on the ropes from a corner dropkick and ends up Giant Swung, fireman’s tossed, then trapped in Kyoko’s variety of submissions, both wild and basic. Five minutes in, Manami gets that corner dropkick but tries a Manami Roll and gets powerbombed- she comes back with Dropkick Spam and her deathlock bodylock. Kyoko hits her with a Slingshot Backsplash after more stretching, then a corner DDT. She attempts another Backsplash but Manami kicks her in the ass, and a Rolling Cradle gets two. She climbs, but Kyoko Germans her out of the corner and hits a lariat. She’s selling the back so much, and moving so stiffly, that I suspect it’s legit hurt (she’s been holding it since the fireman’s toss). Another lariat and a Run-Up Flying Back Elbow get two. Manami Roll catches her for two and she’s dropkicked trying another slingshot dropkick. Running No-Hands Springboard Plancha! Manami goes for her finisher, but has to duck a lariat & settle for a German for two. She climbs, but Kyoko hits an AMAZING run-up headscissors! That got a bigger reaction than the plancha!

Kyoko climbs now, but they fight up top like crazy people until Manami kicks her straight backwards to the floor, taking a back-bump in the ring on the backlash! Holy jesus. Missile Kick Suicida! Takako marks out for that on commentary, and Manami missile kicks her in the back of the head in the ring. Another to the face gets two. Moonsault… misses! Kyoko hits a Super Powerslam as like EVERY move is now off the top. Near-fall there, and Kyoko hits the submission hold that won her the All-Pacific Title! Toyota scrambles and finally hits the rope in a good bit, and Kyoko goes for the Niagara Driver- Manami Roll reversal! 2.9! Straightjacket Suplex gets two. Kyoko tries that “German them off the top” move again, but Manami’s wise to it and lands on her feet, hitting a Dragon Suplex for two! Moonsault- two! She goes for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, but they either botch or just fall back- another try… and she only gets two! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that fail yet!

Toyota tries the Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock), but Kyoko lariats out as the crowd chants her name after that kickout. Double K.O. spot, but Manami hits the top… and Kyoko charges up for an Overhead Belly-To-Belly Superplex! Close two. NIAGARA DRIVER!! Jesus… still no? Everyone’s on the edge of their seat waiting for the next thing… but unfortunately that’s Manami botching another No-Hands Springboard, just flopping back. I mean, I guess that’s psychology since it’s 22 minutes in. They stumble to improvise, then she tries the Reverse Straightjacket Spinebuster thing that won her the tag titles, but can’t lift Kyoko right and she just hauls her backwards and bridges, but Kyoko’s in a mess and there’s no count. Flying splash gets two as they look for stuff… and Kyoko whips Manami into the ropes, she Springboards off in the ugliest way possible, and sunset flips her for the three (23:31). Toyota unifies both Titles! Kyoko slowly walks away while Manami has this look on her face that’s either extremely unemotional (rare for her) or super-disappointed. Not your typical grateful new champion, she’s buried in trophies (the White Belt AND Purple Belt!).

Hooooo man, this was the worst Manami/Kyoko match ever- why, it barely got four stars! This really came off like two people trying to have a ***** match but the world just not clicking right for them, as Manami’s early slips led to a lot of crowd-killing submissions as they tried to get it together, and Kyoko looked stiff and hurt. And then they’re like “okay time for MDKs” and they just hit repeated finisher-tier moves and bump like lunatics (that superplex suicida-to-boot-off-the-top move was so, SO dangerous) and we’re back in the game. Selling? A BIT, with people lying around after moves, but then they’d still hit all their flying stuff with little problem. Less psychology and more “GO GO GO!” but fuck it, that’s good enough sometimes, especially when it’s bugfuck insane like that. And hey- they did multiple “learned from the last move/second try hits” spots as well, so they used their heads a LITTLE. But then they botch 2-3 big moves right in the end-game, which probably shows they’d have been better off ending it earlier. ESPECIALLY since the biggest botch was their finisher, resulting in an improvised mess at the end.

Rating: **** (so, SO flawed, but also full of amazing spots and one of the best five-minute finishing stretches you’ll see… unfortunately, that stretch lasted seven. I mean, it was heading to ****+ until they blew the finish. Hilariously, I think this is their worst match)

Joshi Spotlight: Joshi in 1993 – Scotts Blog of Doom!

Hokuto in her “Final Countdown”… until returning a couple months later to Main Event the Tokyo Dome.

* Now THIS is a huge Dream Match! Akira Hokuto teasing retirement, allying with her biggest competitor against the two most lethal Kick Demons in Joshi- Kansai & Hotta are near-clones of each other but from different companies. Hotta’s been kept strong all year for stuff like this, and Kansai/Hokuto is one of the big pairings we’ve yet to see in a singles or tag match (there was a Survivor Series-type match that had bits, though). And Aja/Kansai was a huge feud in ’93, with Aja knocking her out at Thunder Queen and winning a ****+ solo match for the WWWA Title, never mind tearing Hotta’s hand apart in January, so she’s got history with both opponents. Aja’s in yellow & black, Akira’s in green & white, and the Kick Demons are in AMAZING gear- their standard outfit types, but in matching yellow & blue!

Kansai swats away at Akira before the bell, and the Dangerous Queen only smirks and turns away. This gonna be ugly- Kansai kicks her right in the spine like “bitch, you WILL respect me”. Aja trades off with both to start, but they slowly kick Hokuto around because she’s trying to square off with them. Aja machine-gun slaps Hotta for a WHILE in a great bit. Nasty backdrop & sharpshooter from Akira for a while, but then Hotta & Kansai throw some absolute BOMBS at Aja. She stuffs attempts to finish and knocks Hotta around, though, but gets caught with a Flying Rolling Kick when she puts her up top. Hotta aims for HER finisher, but Aja resists. Kansai tries for a DOUBLE Powerbomb, but Akira flies in… and dropkicks Aja by mistake. They leave bootprints on Aja’s face, and Hotta hits a straightjacket piledriver (falling back from her Pyramid Driver) for two.

Aja Mountain Bombs a running Kansai for two and Akira splashes her for two, then they give HER the “multiple kicks” spot in revenge, but Kansai backdrops Hokuto. Aja stops a Pyramid Driver, but Kansai backdrops Akira… then flying clotheslines Hotta by mistake. Aja hits clotheslines & a piledriver, powerslam & 2nd-rope splash for two-counts. Flying Back Elbow… misses! She meets Kansai with backdrop drivers, though, getting two. Akira Powerbomb gets the same. They knock the Kick Demons outside… Assisted Tope Con Hilo! Aja now superplexes Akira ONTO Kansai, and Aja hits that Back Elbow! 1… 2… NO!! The crowd totally bought that. Aja readies the Uraken to finish, so Akira whips Kansai… but she’s whipped instead! Akira eats the Uraken! Kansai blocks another shot, Aja blocks her kick, and Kansai tries an armbar, but PSYCHE- she kicks Aja square in the face! Aja’s flat-backed, so the ref starts the count… Aja struggles up at eight… but falls on her ass! She’s back down! Aja is KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT at (14:12)! Paying off the Aja/Kansai feud and paying back the knockout fall at Thunder Queen last year! The crowd goes wild!

Aja’s rolled out of the ring like garbage as a stunned Akira is now left with the two most murderous women in Joshi ready to end her. Kansai tries to finish immediately, but Akira lands on her for two. But Hotta yanks her out of the Northern Lights Bomb to huge heat- this is one-sided and the crowd knows it. Akira eats a double-kick and a backdrop for two. Kansai holds her upside-down so Hotta can just bludgeon her, which gets the crowd chanting Akira’s name. Tiger Driver- two! They surround her for the kill… but telegraph it and clothesline each other. But she only gets this, as she climbs, gets caught, and Hotta’s Caribbean Splash (straightjacket german superplex) wrecks her… two count! Akira tries a comeback with a German, but Kansai knocks her leg out. Dangerous Queen Bomb- two! Akira sells it like that was the last of her energy, getting a desperation clothesline, but Kansai just swats her and she’s nearly powerbombed. She reverses another and scores a rollup… 2.9! The crowd actually gasped there. Hotta signals the end, though- Pyramid Driver! But it’s only two! Kansai’s sick of this shit, so drops a knee and holds her… and bam! Flying Rolling Kick to HER by mistake! Kansai stunned, Akira pounces on Hotta, hitting the Northern Lights Bomb for the three (5:07)!

Akira flails around and tries to take advantage of Kansai, but she’s caught- Kansai aims for Splash Mountain on the FLOOR, but Hokuto reverses to a German and both women are dead. The crowd buys this as the game-changer, and Akira hits a roundhouse kick and milks a K.O. count- Kansai struggles up at “8”, but Akira’s next kick wings the ref and Kansai flattens her with a lariat to buy some time. Finally she’s up, and she signals for Splash Mountain… but Akira catches her while her arms are out with a Dragon Suplex- two!! Kansai reverses a whip and tries to finish, but Akira struggles and she settles for a piledriver- Flying Headbutt is attempted, but she misses. HUGE Missile Kick gets two for Akira. She’s running out of chances as she knows it- she climbs one more time, but Kansai whips her off, and finally fights her into a messy Splash Mountain (more of a running Ligerbomb)… TWO!!! But Akira’s a corpse already and Kansai still has some “go” left, so she hefts her up proper for a full Splash Mountain (razor’s edge into ligerbomb), and Akira is finished at (10:28; 24:39 total).

Brilliantly laid-out match. Aja dominates a ton in the early going so her elimination is unexpected, but also doesn’t make her look weak. Kansai looks GREAT for outdoing a double-team and ending up the winner. She KOs the goddamn WORLD CHAMPION, too, leaving Akira against impossible odds against two killers. So of course you give her the hope spot and have her pull out a win over Hotta (who is still actively being pushed), only for her to do the honors, so to speak, giving JWP’s top star the win in the end. Going through a Finisher Surge at 12 minutes in was perfect timing here, because you effectively get a whole new match once that’s over. Then they kick Akira to death and give her NO chance until a big mistake costs them Hotta. Kansai should easily finish her in this state, but that German on the floor puts the fight out of her and Akira pulls out SO many last chances and nearly brings her down until Kansai proves to just have too much HP left and then it’s over. Even Aja & Hotta were fantastic in defeat, cheering on their partners at ringside and getting way into it (Aja sold her knock out for several minutes, too). Remarkable story overall.

Rating: ****3/4 (one of the great one-sided matches- a **** war to begin ending with a lucky K.O., then a come-from-behind win, then a near-win that ultimately breaks the hearts of the fans. Phenomenal storytelling)

Match Ratings:
Minami/Tomoko/ASARI/Rie vs. Hikari/Bolshoi/Nouchi/Yagi: ***1/2
Tomezo Tsunokake vs. Akiracito Hokuto: 1/2*
Kumiko Maekawa vs. Kyoko Kamikaze: N/A
Reggie/Ito vs. Eagle/Carol: ***
LCO vs. Harley/Yukari: **1/2
Takako/Cutie vs. Devil/Candy: ***1/2
Chigusa/Yamada vs. Sakie/Yoshida: ***1/2
Manami Toyota vs. Kyoko Inoue: ****
Aja/Akira vs. Kansai/Hotta: ****3/4

-This was a weird show throughout, with the truncated match-lengths (only 13 minutes?) in the early going leaving them messing with the “AJW Tempo” by sitting in holds for the first half and only then revving it up, and several wrestlers gave sloppy and/or lazy performances (KAORU, Eagle and even HARLEY was poor tonight- and Candy & Toyota were slipping all over the ropes, making me think something was up, there), as everyone seemed to have issues getting on the same page. I’m wondering if this being the first interpromotional show in a while messed with their chemistry? I mean, this was a 5-hour show- they had to know it was a big deal and should have tried harder. The the Main Event is a great one, and furthers the legend of Hokuto.