AJW QUEENDOM ’95:
* For this Joshi Spotlight, we take a look at the three “Wrestling Queendom” shows in March 1995! However, I’ve done two of them before, so here’s the two matches available from the first one- thankfully, BOTH are ****+! Here we see the returning veterans of the Raijin Army take on LCO & Suzuka Minami, and then the Main Event is a spectacular 8-Woman Elimination Tag with some odd rules- all to see which AJW wrestlers get to head to the “Bridge of Dreams” show and showcase their promotion at the Tokyo Dome!
This review will feature those two big matches, then end with summations for the two Queendoms.
RAIJIN ARMY (BISON KIMURA, JAGUAR YOKOTA & LIONESS ASUKA) vs. SUZUKA MINAMI & LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda):
* And now it’s time for Jaguar’s “Returning Veteran Squad” to take on the reunited Minami/LCO team! The Raijin Army sort of forms as a whole at this point, with the wily vets throwing a spanner into the works of AJW- this bout probably being to properly reintroduce them as a unit. There’s some fun stuff here, as Jaguar trained both Mita & Shimoda, while Mita based a huge chunk of her current act (especially her Chops) off of Bison after she retired. Jaguar’s in pink, Bison’s in white tiger-stripes, Asuka’s in navy blue, Minami’s in orange & blue, and LCO’s in white & purple. This is Bison’s first real match back, so she gets a BIG reaction. Mita talks shit on the mic and Bison grabs at her right away.
OH SHIT- MIRROR MATCH!! Bison grabs Mita by the hair and flips her around. What’s Japanese for “THAT’S FOR LIFTING MY SHIT, BITCH!”? Jaguar comes in and gets eaten alive, though- Mita airplanes her and they hit the Bitch Pose, pointing at Bison and taunting. Shimoda gets scrapped on by the Raijins, though, and has to escape- MITA/BISON AGAIN!! They reverse on each other and Mita gets a huge reaction for her Blazing Chop. She adds three more, but Bison snags her and they pay back that Pose. Some more stuff, and they toss her to Minami, who gets her ass kicked- Shimoda’s in but eats Bison’s tonfa rod! Mita breaks up an STF to boos, triggering the “LCO Arena Brawl” spot, with Bison flying into a pile of chairs. Minami actually grabs Bison’s tonfa and blasts Jaguar with it, and Mita piledrives Bison on a chair! Twice! They all nearly get counted out this gets so venomous, and LCO pounce on a bleeding Bison, hitting a triple-team missile kick from Minami for two. Triple Bitch Pose into a triple-team kick! Shimoda’s falling clotheslines get two.
Minami adds a tombstone- Jaguar saves at two- then a butterfly backbreaker as more double-teaming leaves me feeling sorry for poor Bison, who is getting NOTHING here. They even hit the hangman’s choke in the corner with TWO boots in her face! Jaguar even kicks the ref for not doing anything about it. Mita grabbing a drink from a ring girl while still holding Bison’s hair is God-tier stuff. After like seven minutes of murder, Bison FINALLY escapes with a backslide slam and tags Jaguar… who immediately gets tossed around. She manages a rana on Shimoda, but the ref won’t count (cuz of that kick?). Asuka piledriver & Jaguar Vertical Pedigree get two, but Mita Blazing Chops Bison off the top out of a double-team, then hits her dive on the Raijins. Jaguar manages her Pedigree to Minami on the FLOOR, but she eats a Blazing Chop in the ring- she bridges out and Asuka hits a flying lariat & Giant Swing.
Minami takes Asuka’s kick, but manages her Powerbomb on Bison for two. Jaguar does a victory roll but Mita reverses for two, then LCO hits the Electric Chair/Flying Splash on her. DVD is reversed for two, as is Shimoda’s Tiger Suplex. Bison misses a flying splash, but Shimoda lands on her feet- she does manage a Tiger Suplex for two, though. Jaguar outsmarts them and flies in, letting Bison hit the Bison Chop on Shimoda- two! LCO saves. Another one, and the Raijins hold off Minami & Mita for the three (17:21). Everyone gets into a brawl at match’s end.
haha, holy SHIT this was fun- LCO just pounced like their most insane stuff possible, fighting like they HATED Bison and wanted her specifically to die. Like, they absolutely would not let up, killing her at every turn and it was awesome. Jaguar was grumpy about it and Asuka largely didn’t do much, so the match was way more focused that most trios tags. Mita looked amazing, just dominating at every turn and hitting great-looking stuff and having great facial expressions (especially being offended that someone would hit her while she was fighting dirty). And the ending was perfect for the match’s story- Bison gets murdered the entire time, but manages a Blazing Chop on the lowest-ranked member of the other team, and that’s all that’s necessary. It puts over her move and gives her the “happy ending” she deserves after all of that shit.
Rating: **** (hell of a return for Bison, and a tour de force by Mita, who led most of the match)
8-WOMAN DEAD HEAT RUMBLE ELIMINATION MATCH:
MANAMI TOYOTA, YUMIKO HOTTA, TAKAKO INOUE & SAKIE HASEGAWA vs. AJA KONG, KYOKO INOUE, MARIKO YOSHIDA & TOSHIYO YAMADA:
* So this one is a unique match with odd rules, but is there to “book” AJW’s contribution to the huge Bridge of Dreams mega-show in the Tokyo Dome- a tag match. The idea here is that for each pinfall, the loser is eliminated from the match, and the winner secures their place at the Dome Show! This means the person who scores the pin leaves the match as well. So there’s some interesting booking here, as you won’t get massive outnumbering like in other survivor tags, and if the toughest person beats the weakest, it can throw off the balance. Interestingly, the tag champs (Double Inoue) are on opposite sides. And naturally Manami is against Aja. In terms of “tiers” it’s gotta by Yoshida at the bottom, then Sakie.
Manami’s in black, Hotta’s in black & white, Takako’s in yellow & blue, Sakie’s in her paint-splatter singlet, Aja, Yoshida & Yamada are all in blue & white (interesting cohesion, there) and Kyoko’s in red & paint-splatter. Toyota & Kyoko get the best reactions during introductions (though Yamada gets firecrackers for some reason), while Hotta gets basically ignored.
Sakie gets murdered to start, flattened by various people’s clotheslines (oh god in a Survivor Series match those are EXTRA dangerous!)- Kyoko wraps her up & Yamada adds her kicks and snap suplex, and Sakie tags out to Manami- Yamada wastes her, too, but it’s the Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body to her & Aja! But Manami tries a whip and Aja body attacks her to death, and they reverse stuff on each other, showing how good their chemistry has gotten. Kyoko adds her corner DDT and WHAT THE SHIT TAKAKO IS HELPING HER- crowd gets on her for that one big-time. Double DDT to Toyota! Manami punches her in the traitorous mouth after reversing on Yoshida, and Hotta’s in. Yoshida expectedly gets killed now, eating an overthrow powerbomb, and then Takako just charges in (Sakie was supposed to get the tag) and hits TOMBSTONE SPAM of all things for two- you can tell they’re all wanting to score falls. Awful Aurora Special (shoulder-seated backdrop) gets two- Yoshida just went ass-first there. A few more ugly spots (Sakie comes in too early on a double-team, Hotta legdrops on Yoshida’s Y-axis) but Yoshida cartwheel dodges out. Yamada/Sakie slapfest leads to Sakie’s facecrusher, but she’s wiped out with big kicks for two-counts, Yamada really wrenching on the pins.
Manami comes in for dropkick spam after Sakie escapes a double-team, but tries her “dropkick while they hang in the ropes” spot and Aja NOPES in, crushing everyone and setting up a four-person avalanche on Toyota! Except it’s a schmozz and Toyota drops before Aja gets in, and when she re-applies the “hang in the corner” position, TAKAKO comes flying in, and then HOTTA tries! Even she wants Toyota out! Manami finally escapes, and Hotta faceplants Yamada & Yoshida, then hits a Tiger Driver for two- Aja saves Yamada, actually acting like a team player. She eats a kick from Hotta, but cross-bodies Takako & Sakie- she attempts a Flying Back Elbow, but Takako recovers and hits the Aurora Special from there! She freaks when that gets two, so she climbs to hit the Flying Knee, but Aja dodges- URAKEN!!! That gets the pin (11:30). Aja leaves after an easy night and Takako pays for her shittiness, as nobody even bothers to save her ass… also, that’s brilliant- Aja scoring the pin means you no longer have to wrestle AJA KONG, so why not just let their best person score the fall?
Sakie & Kyoko go next, with Sakie actually knocking the vet around, but she & Hotta try a double-team and the Slingshot Backsplash hits Hotta. Sakie leaps on her for more double-teaming, but a slingshot dropkick again counters on Hotta. Run-Up Flying Back Elbow… misses! Rolling corner kick gets two, but Hotta can’t get the Tiger Driver, and takes the flipover headscissors… for three (13:45)! Crowd wasn’t expecting that! Man did HOTTA piss someone off. The old rivals square off- Manami hits a JB Angels armdrag on Yamada, but eats her running kick & legdrop for two. Manami gets a corner rollup & rolling cradle for twos. Manami helps Sakie hit her Rolling Butterfly Suplexes for two, but a flying splash misses and Yoshida pounces with stuff for twos. Yamada hits a flying elbow smash & Enzuigiri Spam for two. Manami stops a double-team with a double-dropkick and hits a Moonsault- two! Yamada avoids a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex and hits kicks for two. She goes for the Reverse Gory Special, but of course it’s reversed the victory roll- two! Crowd bought that one. Toyota climbs- Super Belly-To-Belly by Yamada! Two!
Sakie saves Manami from another Finisher That Never Hits, but Yamada scores another spinkick avoiding a double-team, netting two. Double-team sees Manami dropkick Yoshida off the top and hits a Missile Dropkick Suicida to both opponents! Doomsday Device Dropkick to Yamada in the ring- two! But that’s that- Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex at (20:55). Sakie congratulates her regular partner and immediately divebombs Yoshida, hitting sloppy Savate Kick Spam for two. Yoshida reverses a whip to the Run-Up Sunset Flip for two, but tries her monkey flip and gets slammed down. Uranage gets reversed twice- Yoshida tries a rollup for two. But she finally runs into one, and Sakie puts another with mustard on it for two. She tries to climb up, but eats a DDT off the second rope and hits the floor- Run-Up Plancha from Yoshida! She throws Sakie back in for a German suplex- two! Both girls are just exhausted here. Yoshida tries to finish with a Run-Up Splash, but hits knees! Sakie goes for the Savate Kick, but misses and eats La Majistral for a BIG nearfall (the ref practically somersaulted on the “missed three”, lol)! She whips Sakie off the ropes again, but that’s it- Savate Kick catches her on the chin at (24:43). A bawling Sakie hugs Manami The Hero-Mom at the end, and when the Dome match is announced, we suddenly get Kaoru Ito AND Yoshida to hug the gang, forming the stable called “Freedom Force”! oh, the comic book jokes I can now make…
Okay, this ended up terrific- great “strategy” psychology and it turned into a fantastic tag match in the end to make up for a lot of ugliness in the early going. The first half had all kinds of botching, as if nobody had a gameplan and various people were sloppy. A few moves didn’t hit right and then you have people kind of ending up in each other’s way, messing up the “avalanche” spots, double-teams and more. But that ends up kind of “helping” in a weird way, as all the people playing traitor means it seems like it’s SUPPOSED to look chaotic and ugly. They really pulled off the high stakes of the match, as everyone wants to work the Dome- Yamada REALLY going for pins on Sakie looked great, as did people jumping the gun on tags to run in. Everyone just letting Aja pin Takako was funny, and Hotta going down raised the stakes because it made it clear that flash-pins and early falls were possible even on a credible fighter. Yamada was interesting here, as she was a bit sloppier than normal, as if charging in without a plan every time a reversal was called for, selling for random kicks of all stripes. but despite all the sloppiness, it ended up being a great bout with lots of false-finishes once it got to be a 2-on-2, as you saw them try whatever it took to win. The crowd bit a LOT on Yoshida’s stuff to Sakie, expecting nearly anything to get the win, which is exactly what you need with an underdog like her.
Rating: ****1/4 (I was all disagreeing with Mike Lorefice’s rating because of how ugly a lot of it looked, but then it just built and built near the end until you had the standard AJW Nearfall Fest)
The remaining matches:
YOSHIKO TAMURA & MISAE WATANABE d. SAYA ENDO & YUKA SHIINA (7:49): Said to be “bad & boring rookies match” by Mike Lorefice.
MIDGET MATCH: MISTER BUDDHAMAN & LITTLE FRANKIE d. TOMEZO TSUNOKAKE (9:34): Said to be “good for an AJW midget match”.
AJW TITLE: KAORU ITO d. TOMOKO WATANABE (18:26): The two usually had good chemistry, being from the same class.
GAUNTLET MATCH: REGGIE BENNETT d. RIE TAMADA, KUMIKO MAEKAWA & CHAPARRITA ASARI: In a great example of “AJW not planning for the future”, Reggie squashes all three women in succession, defeating them easily in matches going 1:39, 1:37 & 1:27. All three were highly thought-of and Maekawa in particular became a big star, making decisions like this seem kind of ridiculous in retrospect. Like, obviously a big girl like Reggie will demolish these rookies, but why book it like that?! Maybe give one a hope spot or have it be competitive, or not skoosh somebody you’re trying to showcase to the audience more (Kumiko in particular is getting the “fresh rookie inserted into the ranks” push now).
And here’s my quick notes for the Queendom- SUCCESS & VICTORY shows:
AJW WRESTLING QUEENDOM 1995:
* So a year and a bit ago, I reviewed all the Wrestling Queedom shows in succession- 1995 saw a weird bit where it was split into two shows- SUCCESS and VICTORY. The first was a one-night tag team tournament with Double Inoue pulling the BOSS move of relinquishing their WWWA Tag Team Titles just because they were the 99th champions and also wanted to be the 100th champions. And the very next week, all those tournament wrestlers have to fight AGAIN, with Manami Toyota getting a highly-anticipated rematch with Aja Kong for the WWWA World Title. The game appeared set in earlier shows, as Manami started using the Victory Star Drop (a vicious kamikaze attack that sees her flip the opponent and herself backwards off the top rope using her legs to head-drop the both of them- sorta like a Dragon Superplex with the legs), failing to beat Aja at the Tokyo Dome four months prior (in a ***** legendary match), but beating her in a tag match a few months later, then Kyoko Inoue to set up this match. Aja had beaten all comers and seemed invincible to anyone but Akira Hokuto by this point.
ELIMINATION TAG MATCH:
RIE TAMADA, CHAPARITA ASARI, YOKO TAKAHASHI & MISAE WATANABE vs. TOMOKO WATANABE, YUKA SHIINA, YOSHIKO TAMURA & NOBUE ENDO: Perfectly fine stuff at a great pace, but everyone went out to jobber moves. Tomoko is dogpiled by all her opponents for the pinfall, laughing it off as funny. **.
DOUBLE INOUE vs. REGGIE BENNETT & SUZUKA MINAMI: Double Inoue are winning so give up a ton to their opponents, then put Minami away with a Niagara Driver/Super Chokeslam in (12:17). Fast pace but no selling. ***.
TOSHIYO YAMADA & YUMIKO HOTTA vs. AJA KONG & MARIKO YOSHIDA: Mariko tried really hard but just got killed by the Kick Demons, requiring Aja to repeatedly save her. Aja pins Yamada with the Uraken at (18:17). ***1/2.
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) vs. LADY APACHE & LA FELINA: The Luchadoras were fighting a style the others didn’t know, and it turned into kind of a mess. Apache walks right into a Blazing Chop, setting up the Death Valley Driver for an easy win (10:06). **1/4.
RAIJIN CORPS (Jaguar Yokota & Lioness Asuka) vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & BLIZZARD YUKI: The veterans run a good match, but disappointing considering how good everyone here is. A very “Bret Hart” finish as Yuki rolls through Jaguar’s flying move for the win (13:42) after the vets dominated most of it. ***1/2.
BISON KIMURA vs. KAORU ITO: Bison is the vet but Ito keeps stuffing her moves, making a weird match. Multiple Bison Chops score the win (13:49). **1/2.
MARTIAL ARTS SHOOT MATCH- FUMIKO ISHIMOTO vs. KUMIKO MAEKAWA: I missed it. Ishimoto wins.
DOUBLE INOUE vs. AJA KONG & MARIKO YOSHIDA: Aja beats the shit out of Takako and even Yoshida does well, but an errant Uraken from her own hits her and she’s done (16:19). Another great sprint with a frenetic ending. ***1/2.
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & BLIZZARD YUKI: Fantastic LCO formula match, as they destroy the high fliers. They took a while to get going- clearly going for a “long match” while keeping their cardio together, but by the end it’s non-stop great timing and double-teams, with everyone reversing each other’s big moves to prevent a fall. LCO hit most of their big moves, but Mita repeatedly had her DVD foiled, and once Manami got her vulnerable, the Future Ace was just too good- both of her Japanese Ocean Suplexes are devastating, and Mita’s not advanced enough to be kicking out of those (20:56). ****.
DOUBLE INOUE vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & BLIZZARD YUKI: So Double Inoue win the gold one more time, becoming the 100th Champions, beating Manami & Yuki for the second time in a couple months, but giving them an “out” (they were still in the ring from their last match). Manami hits her finisher early but Takako’s too good with the saves. Yuki does great stuff, but also gets caught. Some miracle kickouts show her advancement, but she gets murdered by Kyoko’s biggest stuff when Manami is caught by a Takako*Panic knee off the apron- Niagara Driver finishes her at (14:49). One of the best under-15 matches you’ll ever see. ****1/2.
AJW WRESTLING QUEENDOM- VICTORY (1995):
KUMIKO MAEKAWA vs. RIE TAMADA: Not bad, but long for a rookie battle. Tamada wins with her spinning cross-body at (10:36). **.
AJW JUNIOR TITLE- CANDY OKUTSU (JWP) vs. CHAPARITA ASARI (AJW): ASARI finally wins her trophy belt back from JWP, hitting the Sky Twister Press at (15:34). High-speed and tons of cool stuff. ***1/2.
KICKBOXING MATCH- KAORU ITO vs. NORIKO TSUNODA: I couldn’t find it.
BEST TWO OF THREE FALLS- LADY APACHE (CMLL) & JAGUAR YOKOTA (AJW) vs. MARIKO YOSHIDA (AJW) & LA FELINA (CMLL): Mostly awful match with tons of screwed up moves that make Lucha look like fake trash- only Jaguar & Yoshida save it by being great. They go 16 minutes before there’s finally the first fall, and the next two happen less than a minute apart- Jaguar pins Yoshida with her Straightjacket Suplex at (18:02). **1/4.
UWA WORLD TAG TITLES- LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) vs. SUZUKA MINAMI & TOMOKO WATANABE: Another great “LCO Template” match as they take out a thrown-together team. Minami finally leaps onto Mita and gets Death Valley Driven at (19:01). Minami’s Powerbombs couldn’t quite get the job done, and Mita going for the Death Valley Driver until it finally hits (the crowd FREAKING every time, as that shit seems to have DDT-level overness as a finish in Joshi) pays off in the end. Even Tomoko did her job adequately, with her slams and lariats hitting stiffly- she’s improving a lot. ****.
BISON KIMURA vs. SAKIE HASEGAWA: A classic “put over the rookie” match, as veteran Bison lays waste to her, but keeps firing off comebacks, scoring a surprise three-count with a Savate Kick (10:05). As a speedier Joshi match, it avoids restholds and “too long” syndrome, ending up a very good Veteran/Kid fight. ***1/2.
IWA WORLD TITLE TRIANGLE MATCH- TAKAKO INOUE vs. REGGIE BENNETT vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA: Called “the last great Yamada match”. Takako pins a thrashing Yamada in 9 minutes of all action, then gets killed by the Reggie Rack in two. Yamada scores a rollup on Reggie in four, so it’s a playoff- Yamada finishes Takako with her Reverse Gory Bomb at (5:18). Almost TOO fast, because they went for finishers immediately, but it was still very good- great bumping by Takako & selling by Yamada. This ends up being the last gasp of Yamada. ****.
MMA-STYLE LAST WOMAN STANDING MATCH- LIONESS ASUKA vs. YUMIKO HOTTA: Absolutely AMAZING, vicious, brutal match. No rope-breaks, leading to some great “latch on and try to tear the limb off” stuff as nobody can escape. Asuka gets a notably bruised face as they seem to forget this is fake. This is one of those things that really mystifies me as a reviewer- how to rate this? You could go anywhere from ***-***** and I’d be like “yeah, I can see that”. It’s totally different than anything I’ve ever seen in Joshi before. I’ve seen stiff brawls, but nothing like “Faux-MMA” where they cause real damage with their strikes but still work the match. Hotta hits the Pyramid Driver, but because there’s no pins, she pulls Asuka up, but the veteran pops up with an uppercut so good I swear I saw Dan Forden’s head pop up from the bottom of the screen. But she gets a roundhouse kick blocked and takes a vicious kick RIGHT TO THE FACE, slumping over. And then, with picture-perfect timing, she fights up to her feet at “9”… and slumps back onto her ass for the TKO (22:54). ****1/4.
WWF WOMEN’S TITLE- BULL NAKANO vs. KYOKO INOUE: Bull defends her WWF Women’s Title in an AJW-style match that shatters any American women’s match pre-2000s easily. This is also Bull’s last tremendous singles match before she gives it up. Wild stuff like Kyoko’s backsplash move hit off the guardrail from a running start. Kyoko hits the Niagara Driver but can’t get the pin, and her long history of “heartbreaker/person who jobs to the Main Eventers” continues as Bull hits the Somersault Double-Leg Guillotine at (17:05), and the remaining members of Gokumon-To (these two plus Tomoko) cry in the ring afterwards. ****1/4.
WWWA WORLD TITLE- AJA KONG vs. MANAMI TOYOTA: They start off at a lightning pace, but Aja soon starts murdering Toyota, even hitting a piledriver through a table. Manami gets a great reversal by blocking the Uraken & hitting a suplex, but gets killed again. And like all their other matches, Manami DOES hit the Victory Star Drop, but Aja’s too into the ropes- this badly hurts her, but is still a heartbreaker because Manami’s new MDK still doesn’t work. Aja hits an Uraken but Manami kicks out! Then, in a pretty huge finish, Aja goes for the Super Mountain Bomb, but Manami leapfrogs back and tries the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex off the top- this seems like it’s supposed to be the finish but they collapse in an electric chair drop instead, so it looks like they improvise a follow-up with a JOCS off the top while Manami’s on the mat, and THAT gets the three and the title at (23:22). NEW WWWA WORLD CHAMPION!!! One of the best Big/Little matches ever. *****.
I’ve read some stuff that suggests this wasn’t the original planned finish- like Aja was supposed to win in another heartbreaker but they made a last-minute decision. Possibly since Aja had beaten everyone and Akira wasn’t gonna be made the champ, they pulled the trigger early. Also it could shock the fans and set off a new “era”. What’s interesting is we don’t get the “Multi-Year Title Reign” thing again, as the year’s booking gets all a-flutter in the middle of it as the Interpromotional Era somehow restarts and JWP enters the title scene.