Joshi Spotlight: Hikari Fukuoka

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The Dreaded Rider Kick from SquaredCircle

Fukuoka’s Moonsault STOMP and her flipping Rider Kick.

JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- HIKARI FUKUOKA:
Billed Height & Weight: 5’3″ 143 lbs.
Career Length: 1989-1999

-And now we come to the career of the “Wait, who’s that girl copying all of Manami Toyota’s stuff?” star of JWP, Hikari Fukuoka! Hikari is often seen in some of the biggest Joshi events kicking around the midcard- sometimes taking on top stars and losing in a “good effort” match, and sometimes beating others on her tier. She’s effectively the “Sakie Hasegawa” of the early ’90s JWP Project promotion- aka “This is who’s going to be our biggest star in five years, but for now she’s just a Highly-Respected Up & Comer”. Only difference is Sakie retired young, while Hikari actually got her run with the JWP Title, holding it for almost two years. There’s also that weird thing where she often dressed in all black and lifted all of Toyota’s shit in a strange bit of idolization- you didn’t often see someone from one company entirely lift someone else in a rival company’s stuff in Japan.

Hikari overall, was VERY good at times. Has a lot of ***1/2-**** matches all in all, with a few I’d rate even a tad higher. Definitely one of the most acrobatic wrestlers I’ve ever seen- able to casually hit cartwheel dodges and perfect flips for a variety of moves. Her Moonsault was AWESOME- a “perfect rainbow” as some have called it- completely arc-shaped. Much more aesthetically-pleasing than Manami’s whiplash-flip version. She also developed a Moonsault STOMP, which apparently got a bit of attention back in the day- hitting someone off a backflip is hard enough, but landing feet first and then also not killing them? It’s pretty crazy. Her Rider Kick was a great Somersault Missile Dropkick, often resulting in her legs or ass landing square on the back of someone’s neck. Because Joshi are insane.

It’s hard to sing her praises too much, because she’s fourth or fifth best in JWP (a small promotion already), and even further back in Joshi overall when you add the AJW wrestlers into it, but she was definitely a very good worker, and I’ve usually only seen the early part of her career- I’ve seen almost nothing from 1995-1999 owing to YouTube missing even her JWP Title victory (which Mike Lorefice gave ****1/2) until I begged Evito-X to upload it. So a lot of the stuff I’ve watched is good but has some “rookie mistakes”- things like leaving too much of a match in restholds and boring the crowd because she’s trying to kill time and doesn’t know how. So I’m struggling to even make a “complete” assessment of someone who likely peaked after most of the stuff I watched.

It’s just kinda funny to me that she became a Main Eventer/Ace of the promotion, because in literally all the appearances of her I’ve seen she’s always in that “Sakie Spot” of an up & comer, so I’m used to only seeing her as their mandatory Tag Champion (she held that belt five times). Granted, post-1996 is not as prevalent or talked-about in Joshi circles, as the Golden/Interpromotional Age had ended.

CAREER TRAJECTORY:
-So Hikari debuted for JWP‘s early incarnation in December 1989, and did the “rookie thing” (I’ve seen none of it) until 1992 or so, when she got featured in longer & longer matches. She stuck with the “Entertainers” during the acrimonious split in the promotion (the “wrestlers” going to LLPW), and was now a featured part of JWP Project, often getting 15-20 minute matches no matter what (which was the style at the times). As JWP had a puny roster, she obviously needed to get elevated quite a bit. In most of the stuff I’ve seen, she dominates other rookies (Command Bolshoi is next in line behind her and gets DESTROYED), but will herself lose to Dynamite Kansai, Mayumi Ozaki, Devil Masami & Cutie Suzuki (and Plum Mariko when she wasn’t hurt). She also got a big “Idol Push”, as I noticed when I searched for pics to use for a Spotlight and was like “!!!! thank god I wasn’t at work”- though these Spotlights have caused a lot of incidents like that (“BISON KIMURA!?!”). Let’s just say that publishing photobooks was a good side-project for a lot of Joshi companies, and Hikari’s looks greatly helped JWP decide to push her to the main event in the future.

By 1992, it seemed like she was JWP’s “Sakie Hasegawa”- the young gun who was inevitably going to be great, but for now got to wrestle top stars and “look good” before losing in a long contest. During the Interpromotional Era, Hikari gets pushed a whole lot more. I think because she’s established as “Good, But Still Loses” JWP doesn’t mind her doing jobs, because she comes out on the losing end A LOT. Her character at this point is “Ardent JWP Defender”, as while everyone had their backs up over how good their promotion was against others, Hikari seemed to be like… SUPER into defending it. Slapping people, calling out challenges, etc. She was in the original AJW/JWP match, teaming with Ozaki against Takako Inoue & Yumiko Hotta in a losing contest on two separate occasions. She teamed with Plum to beat Sakie & Kaoru Ito at Dream Slam 1, but next week at Dream Slam 2, she faces her AJW counterpart, Sakie defeating her after an arduous match. Hikari appears before JWP’s President, literally BEGGING forgiveness in a great character bit- like she’s just so ashamed to have failed her company against their rivals.

This character serves her well when she comes up short in a few other matches, but then ultimately gets her big moment at Thunder Queen Battle– in the 5-minute matches preceding the 8-Woman Tag, she faces Sakie again, and actually PINS HER. This win puts the team up by 1, and is thus instrumental in their one-point victory over AJW in that legendary match. It’s a great bit of storytelling- she gets her big moment over the same person who beat her. Along the way, she has a couple of try-hard matches against Manami Toyota, whose style and moves she has lifted. Manami annihilates her in a pretty good ***1/2 affair, and their later match is MUCH better- hitting ****1/4. Still, both are decisive Manami victories- she gives the kid a ton during the bout, but at points just no-sells the previous offense and dominates her. It’s been suggested that she was pissed at her (“Steal MY shit, will you?!”), but who knows? Hikari was JWP’s representative in 1993’s AJW Grand Prix, getting a bit of a run where she faced a lot of top names, though they made her wrestle TWO 30-minute draws, probably to avoid having anyone job.

In late ’93, she jobs to Bull Nakano at Wrestling Queendom in a great “Rookie/Vet” match I rated ***3/4- Hikari plays an underdog REALLY WELL. At St. Battle Final, she takes the losing fall in a trios match with Cutie & Plum against Bull & Las Cachorras Orientales, being hit with a huge amount of big moves before finally dropping. In late ’94, she wrestles in a borderline exhibition “All Idol Tag Match” at Big Egg Wrestling Universe, as four of wrestling’s Idol-iest wrestlers fight right before the Main Event- Hikari teams with Megumi Kudo to beat Cutie & Takako Inoue. I found the match a bit lame, but Hikari was the best part of it, seemingly wrestling like somebody who wanted to earn a PUSH, dammit!

Hikari’s first gold comes in Jan. 1995, when they pay off ANOTHER “JWP Defender” angle with her- she has tried repeatedly to win back JWP’s Tag Titles from the nasty heel duo Las Cachorras Orientales, failing with Candy Okutsu & Bolshoi as partners. Finally, she teams up with devilish Ozaki, winning in a great match. They hold them for only a couple of months before losing to Kansai & Cutie, though. This ramps up her push at least, as she surpasses Cutie & Plum (who was often hurt) in the pecking order. That September, she teams with GAEA’s KAORU to win the JWP Tag Titles back, now holding them for 211 days before losing them back. In Nov. 1996, her & Devil Masami win the JWP Tag Titles once again, now holding them for *423 days*, absolutely dominating things during her run as Ace.

Hikari’s push finally reaches its peak in April 1997 when she defeats an ailing Dynamite Kansai for the JWP Openweight Title, finally becoming the promotion’s Ace in a great match. Here, she holds the belt a massive 691 days (the longest reign by far). Her Tag Title run is finally undone by Manami Toyota & Kaoru Ito in late 1998. However, she wins the JWP Tag Titles back only 19 days later, this time teaming up with Tomoko Kuzumi. This run lasts 123 days before Cutie & Devil team up to beat them. They end up winning them back for her fifth and final JWP Tag Title run 47 days later, holding them an unknown amount of time before they’re vacated (I think when Hikari retired). In February 1999, she finally loses the JWP Title to Azumi Hyuga (someone so new that I haven’t even seen her in my ’95 watch-through yet- she was being set up as the new Ace) and retires from wrestling the following month. She never un-retired- all Cagematch has is a few exhibition trios matches (like during GAMI’s 20th anniversary) and a battle royal- standard “Retired Joshi Stuff”. So all in all, her run was about nine years- far shorter than the lonnnngggggggggg careers of most AJW & JWP top stars of this era (many of whom are still wrestling).

MOVESET:
Missile Dropkick, Second-Rope Dropkick, Running Dropkick (often spammed out), Rolling Double-Leg Kick, German Suplex, Rolling Cradle, Tiger Driver (double-underhook sit-out powerbomb), Rider Kick (Somersault Missile Dropkick/Axe Kick), Moonsault, Moonsault Stomp (finisher)

THE MATCHES:
* Unfortunately, the match where Hikari defeats Dynamite Kansai to become the Ace of JWP was not available anywhere I could find such things…

But Evito-X, my hero, comes to the rescue! Here it is:

JWP OPENWEIGHT TITLE:
DYNAMITE KANSAI vs. HIKARI FUKUOKA:
(04.08.1997)
* IT’S HERE!! So Kansai has been the largely-unopposed Ace of JWP since its inception, beating all comers- only Devil Masami was on her level, and Mayumi Ozaki could squeak out the occasional win. But with JWP putting years and years of work into Hikari, the pretty Idol Wrestler, it’s her time! Kansai is suffering from an illness behind the scenes (“collagen illness”, which affects joints and connective tissue) and Hikari is set. Kansai’s in bright-ass lime green/black and has her hair bleached blonde while wearing a Doctor Octopus jacket, while Hikari’s got some truly unique gear on- a white tiger-striped leotard with bright blue trunks. They could not look more different- short-haired Kick Demon vs. Pretty Long-Haired Idol. But still, they clasp hands before the bell in a show of respect.

Kansai powers Hikari around for a while, booting her after a Moonsault Dodge, too. She throws some nasty-ass kicks on the floor that nearly push Hikari over the guardrail, then grinds away at her with stretching for a good, long while, dominating like Aja Kong would. Five minutes gone and Fukuoka ain’t done SHIT… and then she headscissors out after a whip and uses technique to hold Kansai at bay, only to try her Cartwheel Handspring Elbow and Kansai just latches onto her and waistlocks her over the top. This leads to a bunch of tosses into guardrails, but Hikari flips out of a Backdrop Driver attempt and turns the tables on the Ace, paying her back. Missile dropkick sets up the big comeback with Hikari’s specialty, high-flying… but she wastes time playing to the crowd and eats the Razor’s Edge! Kansai stalks around, still selling that dropkick, looking like she’s trying to avoid showing how much it hurt, and throws some more slow and steady kicks, really controlling the pace. A violent face-kick earns a count from the ref- Hikari barely struggles up at “8”, only to eat a Backdrop Driver for two.

Kansai signals Splash Mountain, but it’s too early- Hikari Manami Rolls out for two, but HOLY SHIT she still has a “Deer in Headlights” look, as if she’s just running on autopilot at this point. But she ducks under another kick and sweeps the leg! Two Germans get two. Another one keeps Kansai down, and the Moonsault gets two. Kansai reverses a whip but eats a rolling double-leg kick that’s treated like a big deal, but she’s slow to hit the top, and misses the Rider Kick. Kansai tries the Driver again, but Hikari elbows free… only to run into a lariat, doing a Full Toyota (ie. 1.2 Jannetty) bump off of it. That gets 2.8, and Kansai calmly lariats her down again. Another gets two- “Fuck YOU!” bridge from Hikari! An annoyed Kansai just hits a dropkick off the second rope, aims for Splash Mountain, settles for another Driver when that fails, and BAM! Splash Mountain… for two! All that build-up and it can’t get the win! Kansai aims for SUPER Splash Mountain to really end it, but Hikari knocks her off and hits a Moonsault to the floor!

Both actually do the All Japan Sell on the floor, treating this as murderous- it’s a full minute before Hikari puts Kansai back in the ring- RIDER KICK! Hikari takes a HHH-like time to cover, so it only gets two. Another Rider Kick, but again only two and Hikari’s in agony over it. She puts all over her energy into another Moonsault, but Kansai rolls out- Hikari lands on her feet, but does it with such force she collapses, actually working in the context of the match- she’s just dying out there. Kansai throws kicks of increasing brutality, slowly getting her strength back, and a big one puts Hikari on her back. Long count from the ref while Kansai waves off her chances, and when Hikari stumbles up at “9” she just eats another big kick to the face… for two! Splash Mountain looks to finish- Hurricanrana reversal for two! Kansai goes back to the lariat for the millionth time, but now gets caught in a Fisherman’s buster (… sorta- not much elevation) for two. Moonsault Stomp! 2.9!! The crowd senses it’s close, and Hikari goes up for a second one as Kansai writhes and heaves in agony- MOONSAULT STOMP #2 GETS THE PIN (20:26)! Hikari Fukuoka is the new JWP Champion! The Ace is Dead- Love Live The Ace!

Some primo ’80s rock plays as Kansai grabs the trophy, staggers over to Hikari, and hands the bawling new champion her award and embraces her.

Really awesome match with some very good psychology. Kansai is the dominant, stronger wrestler, so she dictates the pace to start, keeping everything nice and slow- she powers around Hikari, putting all her weight on the smaller wrestler, and throws those slow, steady kicks that put her down. Every time Hikari tries to rev up the match, Kansai tries to slow it down, and whenever Hikari can get some steam or a good reversal, she pulls ahead with a ton of stuff (sweep-kick reversal, Manami Roll, etc.). And since Kansai’s big stuff always requires some big set-up, it lets Hikari pull out those “stick and move” things that keep her at bay.

I liked how they kept building up the big spots, making each time a finisher connect REALLY matter. This also avoided the “Beamspam” problem Joshi can sometimes get into, as each sold all the big moves and let everything breathe. Manami would have hit that Moonsault to the floor and followed up with two MORE flying “suicida” moves, but Hikari & Kansai sell that like it killed the both of them, which set up the end-game of finisher attempts. Two Rider Kicks can’t bring Kansai down, and Kansai finally makes another comeback with those kicks, already set up from before as big killers that Hikari can’t match. But then Hikari reverses Splash Mountain again, Kansai gets too reliant on the lariat, and she’s snapped into a reversal, setting up Hikari hitting her finisher, failing to get the three, and finishing Kansai off with another shot. Kansai’s selling there was PERFECT- you could hear her agonized heaving after the first one, making it seem deadly.

Rating: ****1/2 (very good “slow & steady” match, building to a great ending- strong psychology from the slower, stronger veteran)