AJW TV (March 1995):
* This is an episode taped on Feb. 15th, but aired in early March. This one largely features a handful of “Filler” bouts, a very good Aja Kong/Etsuko Mita match, and most importantly- Kyoko & Takako Inoue vs. Manami Toyota & Yumiko Hotta- the person scoring the winning fall will challenge Aja Kong at Wrestling Queendom 1995! Watch as a fascinating little story of inter-team squabbling plays out!
And wouldn’t ya know- it’s apparently U-Channel that bit the big one and made all its videos private, which kills a lot of Joshi videos on YouTube. So these ones have all been deleted between my reviews and my posting, but at least I got ’em. Sorta! Take my word for the match ratings!
AJW TAG TITLES #1 CONTENDERS MATCH:
TOMOKO WATANABE & KUMIKO MAEKAWA vs. MARIKO YOSHIDA & RIE TAMADA:
* A match to determine the top contenders for the lowest ranked Tag Belts in the company, as the future U*Tops duo take on Yoshida (who is still kind of hovering in the lower-midcard) & Tamada. Yoshida’s in her white gear, Rie’s in white w/ ’80s wallpaper accents, Tomoko’s in black w/ tassles, and Kumiko’s in a sports bra and shorts in 1980s wallpaper decor. Man, all rookies have to dress in these garish designs, I swear.
Everyone tears around at a breakneck pace to start, Yoshida hitting her run-up cross-body on Kumiko and Tomoko hitting her corner bulldog on Rie in the midst of a billion running moves. Rie gets some shine on Tomoko with dropkicks, but she hits a slingshot cross-body to both opponents and Kumiko throws Yoshida up into some Argentine backbreakers, as this is now a regular part of her offense. Yoshida gets her monkey flip and escapes, then Rie & Kumiko use rookie-fu on each other for a while. We get a brawl outside (Jaguar Yokota, on commentary, looks hilariously annoyed when their table gets involved). Back in, Rie uses her spinning cross-bodies on Tomoko for two, but gets kicked trying a third- slingshot elbowdrop misses and Rie gets two. Tomoko screams “Shin-aaaaayyyy!” (“DIE!”) and hits a brutal lariat reversal on a whip- Yoshida saves and has to hit a monster backdrop suplex so Rie can crawl over to the corner. Tomoko crushes Yoshida with three Judo Flips in a row for two, and Kumiko catches her with a BIG theatrical kick for two. Rie runs in and her team hits stereo dives onto their opponents, but Tomoko manages to rana Yoshida for two. A double-clothesline is turned into a big German from Yoshida for two, and she finishes with a Run-Up Flying Splash (8:51) for the three.
Okay, so this one was all about giving the rookies some shine- stuff you gotta do once in a while. Both Rie & Kumiko got some heat on the “just above them” veterans to showcase them for the future, as the company slowly builds its bottom tier. Then Tomoko hits some high-power stuff to show some dominance, actually looking pretty good doing it. Yoshida wins without much fervor, as it’s still a bottom-card match, but it was pretty solid all the way through and both rookies ended up looking good- like they could “almost have a chance” by the end of the year.
Rating: **1/2 (solid TV bout- not great but hard to hate)
SUZUKA MINAMI & KAORU ITO vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA & MIMA SHIMODA:
* A pretty bizarre mish-mash, as four unrelated women are paired up. Ito’s the lowest-ranked and Yamada’s the highest, with Minami & Shimoda hovering around midcard tiers. Ito’s in her rainbow bellyshirt singlet, Minami’s in a pink & purple leotard, Yamada’s in yellow & white and Shimoda’s in black & gold.
Ito & Shimoda do a REALLY awkward sequence to start, then Minami’s in, wailing away. But then Shimoda arbitrarily hops up out of her armbar and throws Minami by the hair. Yamada hits her snap suplex on Minami but takes the tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Yamada face kicks Ito, then does restholds until Ito comes out of the corner ass-first, leading to Stomp Spam for two. Flying Stomp misses and she eats a kick, but she avoids a double-clothesline and Minami flies in with a missile kick to both opponents. Ito Flying Stomps Yamada for two- Shimoda saves. Yamada halts another Flying Stomp with a Belly-To-Belly Superduperplex for two. Shimoda flies off onto Ito’s feet, but avoids Minami’s powerbomb and hits her opponents with a double-clothesline. Missile kick gets two, but the Tiger Suplex is reversed, then she reverses Minami’s powerbomb for two. She FINALLY lands that Kneeling Powerbomb after avoiding another double-clothesline, but it’s a weird one where she falls sideways. Yamada saves after two, and Minami misses her Senton (when was the last time that hit?). Another weird scramble sees Yamada kick Minami for two. Flying Enzuigiri misses but Yamada gets a spinkick for two- Ito saves, but is dumped and Yamada hits the Reverse Gory Bomb for the pin (6:40).
Sooooooooo by-the-numbers and “just hit our signature stuff”, likely thanks to a lot of clipping. It was also REALLY sloppy, with more than one spot involving Shimoda just standing there awkwardly until someone remembers the next spot or moves into position- this came off like they were told they were wrestling five minutes before and hadn’t memorized the gameplan yet.
Rating: ** (just a very sloppy mess of a bout- a handful of good moves but not much flow, and a classic “they hit stuff until somebody wins” non-story)
AJA KONG vs. ETSUKO MITA:
* So the WWWA Champ takes on Mita, who is in no way on her level. These matches are always kind of interesting, as Mita is a dynamite seller, but tends to excel in matches where she can dominate her opponents… and there’s no dominating Aja Kong. Mita’s in black & gold, Aja’s in blue & white.
Insanely rapid pace to start, as Mita dives in, but tries a sunset flip and is sat on, then booted down, clotheslined and stood on. Aja throws some brutal kicks and chokes away, but Mita has a brilliant counter- her arms are longer so she can one-handed choke Aja! Aja nonetheless keeps on beating Mita around the ring, doing her methodical terror thing. Some nasty chops, but Mita rolls her up and then adds a choke of her own, actually keeping Aja down trying to wear her out. Aja skooshes her, but Mita just reapplies and eventually resorts to just strangling Aja, whose selling here is amazing, just squinting in pain. Aja finally powers her way free, and of course you know there has to be a receipt- she launches Mita around ringside and murders her with a chair, but importantly still sells the throat, grasping it in pain after every move.
When they’re finally back in, Mita hits the mandatory “person who takes the worst beating out there immediately gets on offense” comeback by throwing standing Blazing Chops until Aja falls, then her running versions. But she tries another chokehold and Aja punches her way free, hits the Vader Attack, then uses a piledriver and her oil can, Mita just falling like a stone after each shot. Another piledriver (with a great “I’m dead” reaction from Mita when the camera zooms in) gets two- foot in the ropes. Mita gets whipped, but does another sunset flip, this time avoiding the butt-drop- Blazing Chop misses, but she ducks the Uraken and hits it on another try! Electric chair drop gets two- impressive heft there. Aja stuffs the Death Valley Driver and Mountain Bombs Mita when she charges in, getting two. An annoyed Aja hits a second-rope splash for two, then rises for the Flying Back Elbow… but Mita chases her to the corner and tries another electric chair, so Aja hops back and hits a great bridging German for a near-fall. Mita reverses a backdrop driver for two, then whips Aja and tries another DVD- Aja lands on her feet and hits a glancing Uraken, then spins around for a second- Uraken finishes at (10:20).
This one had some fun psychology, with Aja’s monstrous nature being controlled by Mita just attaching herself like a lamprey and trying to strangle the champ. Aja made her standard comeback and was generally methodical and dominant, but didn’t annihilate Mita like she would many other opponents. Like, Aja actually sold a bit- you don’t see her flat-backing off of chops from anyone else, you know? Mita was given a lot of chances and reversed a lot of moves, looking pretty clever and doing more than just “miracle comebacks”, but Aja eventually just threw too much at her.
Rating: *** (pretty smart, simple match with a basic story- one of those rare chances to see a power wrestler do an “underdog” match)
WWWA WORLD TITLE #1 CONTENDER MATCH:
MANAMI TOYOTA & YUMIKO HOTTA vs. DOUBLE INOUE (Kyoko & Takako Inoue):
* Now here’s a match of incredible importance, as the Tag Champs take on top of the top stars below Aja, in a bout where the person scoring the winning fall will challenge Aja Kong at Wrestling Queendom ’95! This means the psychology will be interesting, as tag partners might selfishly go for the pin, or try to break up their partners’. The advantage seems to be for the Champs, given that they’re the top team and Takako knows DAMN sure she’s not beating Aja Kong. Everyone looks deathly serious on the way to the ring- even Kyoko! Kyoko’s in yellow & pink, Takako’s in white & grey, Manami’s in black & Hotta’s in… I forget. I didn’t write it down and now the video doesn’t work. Make up a color!
Manami & Hotta immediately fight over who’s starting the match- oh yeah, this bodes ill. But Kyoko whips Manami to the ropes and she IMMEDIATELY flies off with the No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body- Takako grabs a handful of hair, though, and clobbers Manami with the “Knees to the Face” Tombstone. Kyoko nails her Corner DDT & surfboard. Takako adds a boot, cuz she evil, but she gets Manami Rolled and dropkicked. She DDTs out and Kyoko uses a Giant Swing and hits a horrifyingly dangerous release backdrop suplex- so bad I think Toyota just slipped out upside-down, because even Joshi isn’t THAT reckless. Manami keeps refusing to tag out and takes a shit-kicking for it- she manages a 30-second Rolling Cradle on Takako, but eats more offense before she finally tags Hotta. Hotta lays the beats, but eats a Slingshot Backsplash from Kyoko. Takako stretches Hotta out, but takes overthrow powerbombs and a piledriver for two. Manami nearly gets caught with the Aurora Special (shoulder-mounted backdrop) but rolls Takako up for two, then climbs and gets super-armdragged off for… one! Takako just hops right off, giving us the story- she’s not going for pins!
Manami is dumb enough to climb up after Takako and eats the Super Chokeslam, and AGAIN Takako gets off and instead tags out- Kyoko missile kicks Manami but Hotta breaks up their tag finisher (Niagara Driver/Super Chokeslam)… then drags Manami over to the corner by her hair and “tags” using her foot. Manami’s like “the fuck? That doesn’t count!” to the ref while the Inoues buffet Hotta with DDTs until Toyota flies in with a missile kick to both. But then the teammates squabble in the ring and Manami has to be sent away- Hotta manages a Corner Rolling Kick to each Inoue and Tiger Drivers Kyoko for two. Caribbean Splash (straightjacket super german)… and Takako AND Manami break it up! Hotta slaps her partner around for that, then tries a Pyramid Driver- Takako Flying Knees her in the back! Takako hits a chokeslam and spams Backdrop Holds (releasing it after each bridge), then hits TWO Flying Knees to the head as Hotta flops around the ring. Hotta’s now softened right the hell up, and Kyoko levels her with her running Lariats for two. But Hotta escapes the Niagara Driver with an enzuigiri! Takako blocks the tag, and so Kyoko hits the Niagara Driver on the second try- two! Manami barely dove in.
Kyoko attempts a second Driver, but Hotta finally backdrops out and tags Manami, waiting on the top rope… but Kyoko charges right up there and hits the Super Belly-To-Belly! Toyota barely grabs the ropes at two, then Manami Rolls out of a Niagara Driver for two. Kyoko tries another Backsplash but gets hucked out- Running No-Hands Springboard Plancha to Double Inoue! Moonsault in the ring- Takako saves, so Manami hits her with a straightjacket German, leaving Kyoko alone- Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex! But now HOTTA runs in and sweeps out the leg on the bridge! Screwed by her own partner! Partner fight! Manami Germans Hotta in the scramble! But Kyoko Germans her on the distraction for two! But she tries her Run-Up Back Elbow and Toyota charges after her- VICTORY STAR DROP!! okay, what I said about Joshi not being that reckless? ‘Twas bullshit- I forgot about that move. But they’re in a tangle and Kyoko landed ON Toyota anyways so there’s no count, and so Manami just hauls Kyoko to the other side of the ring and hits it AGAIN, hitting in dead-on perfect and threading it into a leg-roll clutch, this time Hotta staying in her spot and not interfering so Manami scores the pin at (16:55). Manami earns the Title shot at Wrestling Queendom!
This was a super-fascinating match in terms of story, as the selfish Hotta/Toyota duo kept screwing each other over and arguing, while Takako generously gave, doing lots of damage and legwork to set Hotta up for her partner instead, knowing that Kyoko actually stood a chance against Aja (I mean, more than Takako did). Hotta actually did a great job selling here, as TAKAKO INOUE is beating the shit out of her, catching her with everything, and Hotta isn’t doing any of her usual “Hotta Shit” like no-selling. Plenty of big moves near the end, but the ending was kind of weird, as they botch the Victory Star Drop (which nearly ALWAYS looks like it hurts Manami more than her opponent) and have to re-do it, leaving Hotta to stand there on the apron like a dope (while Takako’s been dead for two minutes and is no longer part of the match) while Manami scores the title shot she wanted. Just kind of a mis-timed thing I wouldn’t have even noticed if Hotta hadn’t recovered (I mean, just sell it longer!).
Also, and this doesn’t affect the match rating, Toyota & Hotta beating the Tag Champions despite fighting each other during the match just feels “wrong” from a booking standpoint, even though it’s basically a Superteam of two Main Eventers. I dunno.
The story here is pretty clear, though- Manami is very dangerous with that new MDK of hers, but it fits this weird zone where it rarely scores the pin because it’s essentially a kamikaze attack right out of the corner and follow-up pins are hard (both in and out of kayfabe, sorta- the “botches” end up part of the story). But now she’s pinned both Aja Kong AND Kyoko Inoue with it, cementing it as a super-dangerous move that is a very real threat to her upcoming Title shot against Aja in a month’s time.
Rating: ****1/4 (great little story with a lot of fun moves, but they didn’t QUITE stick the landing)
Overall, an excellent TV show! I mean, a ****1/4 Main Event and the rest of the matches are at least pretty decent to very good. And it’s vastly important to the booking, as Manami Toyota is now the #1 Contender to Aja Kong, and is now very well built-up as a challenger (especially given their ***** Tokyo Dome match the previous November).