Joshi Spotlight: The WWWA & JWP Tag Title Defenses

Double Inoue vs. Manami Toyota & Sakie Hasegawa.

AJW TV (Jan. 1995):
* And welcome to the beginning of 1995 in the Joshi Spotlight! So I found a handful of stuff from the early part of the year, but of primary importance here are the huge Title defenses of Double Inoue & LCO!! So this is a “two-match review”, as both major Joshi promotions defend their top gold in the early part of January 1995!

So first off, Double Inoue make a very big WWWA Tag Title defense as Manami Toyota comes back for her gold, but with Sakie Hasegawa as her new partner! And then we have Las Cachorras Orientales defending the JWP Tag Team Titles on JWP home turf against the odd pairing of evil Mayumi Ozaki & rising idol Hikari Fukuoka! Both matches are absolute bangers, so come take a look!

(Jan. 4th 1995)
* Yes, the very first big match of the year is a huge Double Inoue title defense, as the previous Champ (Manami) teams up with the up & comer who brought her to the 30:00 draw late last year, as Sakie rises up the card again! This is the first of THREE matches these two teams have this year, which is pretty epic- the intent is obviously to ramp up the “Workrate Style” that drew eyeballs to the product in the first place and elevate Manami & Kyoko’s partners as well. Manami’s in black & Sakie’s in her pink multicolor singlet, while Kyoko’s in red & yellow and Takako’s in this HILARIOUSLY garish get-up with a white suit with bright green ruffles all over it. This match was rated ****3/4 by Meltzer.

FALL ONE: Sakie has the sand to try and trade chops with Kyoko, and that goes badly- she’s thrashed and fallaway slammed. They work Sakie over mercilessly, Takako relishing in the abuse by adding her foot to Kyoko’s stretching. And her heelishness is rubbing off on KYOKO, who does the same! Takako prevents an escape with hairpulling and brawling, but Sakie finally clotheslines Kyoko and they pay her back for all that foot stuff when Manami flies in and holds her for Sakie, who just GRINDS it on. And now Takako gets an extra-disrespectful double-foot one. And Takako just smiles, like evil actions are fun even if she’s the one getting hurt. Takako finally DDTs Manami and hits five knee smashes during her Tombstone, getting two off that. Kyoko hits a bizarre double-arm lift into a powerbomb and they work the leg for a bit- Surfboard, but a Manami Roll gets 2.9 on Kyoko!

Kyoko gets a slingshot dropkick, but Takako’s Aurora Special is reversed for two. Manami tries a Doomsday Device, but Kyoko charges in and Takako armdrags her off the top for two. Double-whip, but of course that leads to the Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body to Double Inoue! Moonsault misses Takako, but Manami dropkicks Kyoko off the top and it’s a Running No-Hands Springboard Plancha to Double Inoue as well! Her Straightjacket German in the ring gets two on Takako, but Takako dodges Sakie’s Savate Kick and hits a Backdrop Hold for 2.8. Sakie avoids a Niagara Driver, ducks a Lariat, and tries her Uranage, but finally eats that Lariat, bowling her over for 2.9! Kyoko’s Run-Up Flying Back Elbow AGAIN gets a close call, but they avoid the Inoues’ MDK finisher and Sakie scores a Savate Kick on Kyoko for two! Then Kyoko reverses another to her Lariat for 2, and Sakie avoids the third for a BIG Uranage… 2.9! One… two… three more- 2.9! Shocked Kickout Face from Sakie (man, EVERYTHING today is ripped off from joshi)! She goes up, dooming her to take Kyoko’s Run-Up Belly-To-Belly Superplex… but counters that to a Tornado DDT! For THREE (13:41)!! Jesus that was a lot of near-falls- they’ve trained the fans to think these can come from anything in a 2/3 Falls match, and this one came outta nowhere.

FALL TWO: This match is like **** already. NOW what’re they gonna do? A pissed-off Kyoko just plants Sakie with DDTs as revenge. Takako adds two. Now it’s a DOUBLE-DDT! But Manami hits the teleporting missile kick to both so Sakie can escape! Stereo Flying Headbutts… miss! And we get a dramatic double-submission as Kyoko hits her big Clutch/Deathlock thing on Manami while Takako hits an STF on Sakie, and Manami DESPERATELY claws to the ropes in this big struggle. Niagara Driver is countered to a Manami Roll for two, but she eats Kyoko’s pop-up superplex- “Fuck YOU!” bridge! Takako misses her Flying Knee and eats a German for two. She & Sakie dodge lariats but she gets another Backdrop Hold for two, and catches Sakie with the Super Chokeslam- again a close call! But Sakie’s done and eats the Flying Knee… and kicks out!?! I bought that one. And an amused Takako just delights in firing off another one, right to the face, finally getting three (4:40).

FALL THREE: Takako scores a Tombstone on a dazed Sakie for two, but Sakie escapes Kyoko- and Kyoko eats Dropkick Spam! They reverse stuff, but Manami’s Rolling Cradle gets two. Takako & Sakie trade basics for a minute and the Inoues do restholds. Manami’s finally in and they counter Kyoko’s Slingshot Backsplash- Sakie planchas out onto the Inoues and they set them up on tables. Manami climbs into the STANDS and the fans go nuts, but her Moonsault only hits the lower third of the Inoues. So she’s like “Hey, again!” and hits a splash from the same spot, then Moonsaults Kyoko in the ring for two. Kyoko backs out of the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex… right into Sakie’s Savate Kick, allowing Manami to hit the move… Takako saves! Manami tries the move from a corner position (which she’s been doing lately), but Takako snags her for the Aurora Special and Kyoko flies off with the Back Elbow simultaneously! That gets two (the fans didn’t even bite on it). So they hit their MDK, the Niagara Driver/Super Chokeslam… and Sakie saves! So they try the same move on her, but Manami saves, but when she hits the top… Kyoko charges for her Run-Up Headscissors… for the three (9:16)! Champs retain!

Another classic match, thanks to Main Event Manami, just doing flashy move after flashy move while Sakie does her best “fired-up rookie” act. The first fall was all fun stuff and slow build as everyone gets in on the torture, ending in Manami showing off with her No-Hands shit. And then there were a TON of near-falls, training fans to bite on every false finish right away, as big move after big move fails, but Sakie STILL squeaks out a big win, and with an unexpected move (a Tornado DDT- not one of her regular moves). The second fall was very much into the “Move Beamspam” Manami Method, which is probably why they spent much of the third fall resting or doing simple things. I feel like the table spots were supposed to feel “bigger”, and the fans were starting to not buy the near-falls by the end, but they won them back with the expected MDK not scoring the fall and a “flash pin” doing so instead. Clever booking, too, in having the subordinate wrestlers score the first two falls, putting them over more.

Rating: ****1/2 (another super-memorable classic match, but the first fall was the strongest by far- the second fun Beamspam, and the third “okay we’re tired now” and simpler)

* So the story here is pretty great- early last year, LCO, acting like crazy heels, elevated themselves to the upper-midcard in AJW, then waltzed into rival promotion JWP and won their Tag Team Titles, the same way Ozaki & Dynamite Kansai won AJW’s the year before! In so doing, they began talking shit about absolutely everyone in the promotion, making fun of the talent, the titles (Naito-ing them before Naito was a thing), and even JWP’s President, thus shattering every rule of social tact Japan has (a woman speaking to a male in such terms is highly irregular, much less a man of high status!). The JWP stars, pissed off over LCO’s lack of decorum and their shaming of JWP’s talent roster, has declared war, and tried (and failed) to take the JWP Tag Titles back. Fukuoka, a rising star, has taken shots with other tag partners (Candy Okutsu & Command Bolshoi), but has failed. So after some trios match, Ozaki asks her partner Fukuoka to team with her for one last shot, nine months after LCO won the gold. So this one is about more than the belts- it’s about pride, shame, and putting two nasty bitches in their places.

They show clips of LCO winning the JWP Tag Titles, wearing shirts that bear their own faces on them, beating a few challengers, and teasing the JWP President, who frequently loses his composure and starts yelling at them. Mita swipes the script he’s reading from, and Shimoda sarcastically holds her arm out for a handshake, then flips him off when he slaps it away. Oh, this is going to be tremendous. LCO are in black & gold versions of their regular gear by this point. Ozaki’s wearing black shorts and a top with long, puffy sleeves, while Fukuoka’s dressed up in a purple & black striped leotard with a lot of cut-outs on the shoulders, stomach and thighs, along with a red tutu. STYLE.

LCO get the best of Fukuoka to start, with Blazing Chops, choking, and the almighty Bitch Pose in the corner! And then Ozaki’s in for a slapfest with Shimoda! Crowd is rabid even as Ozaki goes full heel, tearing into Shimoda’s face, but Mita controls Hikari. She finally escapes and Oz uses a falling clothesline, powerbomb, STF & German on Shimoda, but she fights back with her own clotheslines and Mita spirals Oz around by her hair. God I love that move. Hikari tries to interfere so LCO just lay waste on the outside, tossing chairs onto Ozaki while Hikari gets piledriven into the stands. But the magical health refresh that is an outside brawl restores Hikari, who moonsault dodges Shimoda, but cartwheel handsprings right into a boot to the spine- Rolling Cradle still hits for two, though. Shimoda hits a double-clothesline and Mita’s in, so the tiny Oz sticks and moves until she hits a snap armbar. Hikari missile kicks Mita right into her own corner, and Shimoda powerbombs Hikari out of a rana for two then pays back that missile kick. Hikari & Shimoda German each other for two-counts, but Hikari headscissors Mita & Ozaki Rocket Launches Hikari onto LCO on the outside, then it’s a double-clothesline & DDT on Mita, but a missile kick/flying bulldog is kinda botched (Ozaki overshoots, but at least Mita doesn’t “Gayda” it- Oz still earns a “Chotto” from the commentator).

Hurricanrana by Fukuoka on Mita- watching carefully, you actually see Mita leaning in and standing bow-legged on purpose so that Fukuoka can reach her gargantuan 5’8″ height, but moves as if she’s trying to just toss her, so it doesn’t look like assistance. VERY nice. Mita still gets a Blazing Chop and JWP is dumped for the Assisted Plancha/Dive & Electric Chair/Splash! Ozaki saves Hikari. Shimoda gets a Tiger Suplex on a second try for two. She aims for the Death Lake Driver (Tiger Superplex), but Hikari knocks her off… and her Moonsault misses! Mita fails to hit the DVD and Shimoda splashes onto feet, and a PERFECT Moonsault hits for two! Double-Flying Foot Stomp by JWP for two! Hikari now uses her Moonsault STOMP, but hits feet on the first try, so Ozaki plants Shimoda with the Tequila Sunrise (tiger/dragon suplex) so she can hit another- she overshoots, and so hits a proper Moonsault Stomp… for the three (19:54)! The Tag Titles have gone back to JWP! The JWP President gives his team a full 90-degree bow (the ultimate sign of respect and gratitude) and everyone’s super happy- LCO hug each other and bow to the crowd a bit in defeat.

A good match that didn’t quite blow my mind, as it started quite slow, and the Finishing Stretch didn’t quite get as epic as I’d hoped (Mita honestly took very little damage, and kind of just got dumped out of the ring for the end bit- most of these matches typically involve the winning team REALLY having to deal with the partner), but Team JWP finally meshing as one and getting their double-teams in together made it work, and it was a solid story in the usual “LCO Match Template”. Fukuoka was actually the most impressive one of the match, hitting almost everything perfectly, doing four Moonsault-like moves, and hitting the “Mid ’90s Cruiserweight” offense as well as anyone. The baseline LCO match is ***1/2, and this one was better than that.

Rating: **** (still a pretty great match, but I find most of LCO’s top-tier stuff to be significantly better)