Joshi Spotlight: Manami Toyota vs. Suzuka Minami (All-Pacific Title, 1991)

A one-match Spotlight today, but it’s a doozy, and one I’ve been waiting to see for a year or so. Come see what Dave Meltzer considered ****3/4 in 1991!

* Yes! This one has finally been uploaded! Our own Evito-X popped this one onto YouTube recently, giving us a match I’d been looking for for a good while- Meltzer rated this ****3/4, which in “1991 Talk” means it’s gonna have one fuck of a pace. Toyota, holding the White Belt for half a year by this point, is increasingly over and getting very legit, though 1992 was when she started REALLY getting made (and it took 1994 for her to become a worthy Main Eventer)- Suzuka is older and more experienced, and at the peak of her singles credibility, though she only held that belt via a referee decision when Aja Kong got disqualified for cheating too much (and you’ve seen how difficult it is to get DQ’d in AJW). Toyota’s in her early ’90s gear- the all-black, un-detailed leotard, while Suzuka’s in a black & yellow basic singlet. And I have to use those names specifically because “Manami vs. Minami” would get way too confusing.

Aaaaaaand Toyota attacks at the bell with a Bridging German for two! She tries a JB Angels armdrag and gets whipped to the ground, but rolls Suzuka up for two. She throws on a figure-four, but Suzuka reverses moves to her own. She keeps on the leg, but Toyota sticks & moves and hits a suplex for two, then stays on her with sleepers and a bridging deathlock/double-arm to show off her flexibility. Suzuka comes back with a rollup and just powers Toyota off the top again with a powerslam for two. Big Samoan drop gets two and Suzuka stretches out the arms, then hits a high knee and flying knee/kick for two. Butterfly suplex gets two, but they reverse abdominal stretches and Toyota turns that into the Rolling Cradle, but they botch it and Toyota settles for a butterfly suplex, running attack & suplex, working two-counts. She ties up the legs, but gets whipped right into Suzuka’s Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreaker… but a whip on her turns into a spinning cross-body, and Dropkick Spam gets two- Suzuka gets her foot in the ropes!

Toyota figure-fours her legs around Suzuka’s head, but ends up deathlocked and stretched surfboard-style in that position, again selling the torture. Suzuka plants knees into her spine to keep up the punishment, getting two. Butterfly Backbreaker gets two, but Toyota “Fuck YOU!” bridges out! Toyota scores a crazy swinging backslide off a whip for two, then hits a dropkick and a flying head smash for two. She actually works the count again, which is not a common Joshi spot at all, then tries her crazy Inverted-Grip Double-Arm Bridging Suplex, but Suzuka stuffs her and backdrops out. But she takes a swing and misses, Toyota bridging on a German for two. Toyota just kinda stands there afterwards and takes a Perfect Plex for two (did she forget what spot was next, lol?), and a BIG Folding Powerbomb gets two.

MONSTER Flying Senton from Suzuka looks to finish… splat! And she bounces to her feet and with perfect timing, Toyota grabs her wrists in the double-hammerlock and bridges back for her Japanese Ocean Suplex… but Suzuka’s feet are in the ropes! So Toyota just dropkicks her twice and flies off with a TREMENDOUS Moonsault… getting two! And that was a finisher-tier move in 1991, remember! Huge-ass shotgun missile kick blasts Suzuka all the way across the ring, and Toyota follows with a big plancha! Suzuka tries to smash her into the turnbuckle, but gets run across the ring for the same, and a flying sunset flip AGAIN gets two. An exhausted Toyota just gets blasted with a Bridging German for another close call, taking the neck bump. The crowd chants “To-Yo-Ta!” as Suzuka misses a spinkick, Toyota goes for a German, but Suzuka elbows out for her own, and gets rolled forward… for two! Toyota scoops her into a TOMBSTONE of all things, but Suzuka claps her knees and reverses, hitting a weird powerslam from that position- she slowly climbs, but there’s Toyota with a superplex, AGAIN for two! So a desperate Toyota hits the top for a second Moonsault, but this time MISSES, and Suzuka pounces, wrapping her up for a Straightjacket German… for the three (16:38)!! NEW ALL-PACIFIC CHAMPION!!

Wow, this was definitely very good- I can see where Dave got his rating from- for 1991, this was crazy-advanced and had to look like 170 mph compared to anything else going in wrestling. Toyota was just BLITZING the ring at points and Suzuka was keeping it grounded and professional. Dave loves him some “Workrate” and that’s what this was, and this was back when a match full of rollups had him as excited as Acrobatic Choreographed Spotfests make him today. This was like the Joshi version of Savage/Steamboat in a lot of ways- just constant movement and attempts at pins from every position. Good technical stuff to start, everyone changing position frequently to keep the moves looking like more than just resting. And Suzuka is one of the best wrestlers for looking “smart”- like all her stuff comes from just good, classic counters, even if it’s unique offense for her. And I love all the rollups- this just looks like two people trying to WIN, you know? Kind of obvious psychology, but a lot of matches lack that “pull it out at any costs” mentality of grabbing every chance you have, just in case this pin works.

Rating: ****1/4 (really amazing for the time, with tons of near-falls, even though everyone just pops up from every big move and flies back on offense- the proto-“Manami Workrate Style”)

This match ends up being the peak of Suzuka Minami’s career, I think- someone who wasn’t really appreciated in her own time and even now is kind of like a “oh yeah, she was around” wrestler in some circles, she is definitely amazing. She ended up being a short-lived All-Pacific Champion- dropping the belt in only 43 days to her ex-partner, Akira Hokuto. She wins it back six months later, but it’s only for 22 days this time before Bison Kimura unseats her, and after that it’s just “Minami the Upper-Midcarder”.

This is an interesting look at the eras, too- in 1991 a Folding Powerbomb & Moonsault were like MDKs, so them not scoring the pins helped things feel big, which, in a microcosm, is how yesterday’s Canadian Destroyer becomes today’s Mid-Match Canadian Destroyer on the Floor For a Two-Count. But like… IN THE MOMENT in looks great. And man, if we’d seen this match in 1991? This is the year Hogan fought Slaughter at WrestleMania. Think how far in the future this kind of match looks to that stuff. Granted, WWF pulled off Bret/Perfect and Savage/Warrior this year, so this isn’t me dunking on “LOLZ puro is better than WWF” because I found the latter especially better than this. But this looks like it’s another world in terms of innovation.